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THE Addresses, Lectures, and Essays gathered to- 
gether in this volume have appeared at intervals dur- 
ing the past seven years, and I can give no better 
reason for republishing them in their present form, 
than the fact that three earlier collections of a similar 
nature have been received with favour, and, indeed, 
have not yet ceased to be in request. 

I beg leave to offer my best thanks to the Editors 
and Publishers of the various publications in which 
these pieces have appeared, for their Mndly accorded 
permission to reprint them. 

LONDON. October 1881. 



An Address delivered at the Opening of Sir Josiah Mason's 
Science College, at Birmingham, on the 1st of October 


The Inaugural Address of the Lord Rector of the University 
of Aberdeen, February 27, 1874. Contemporary Jte~ 
view, 1874. 


An Address delivered to the Working Men's Club and Insti- 
tute, December 1, 1877. Nineteenth Century, 1878. 


Read at the Meeting of the Domestic Economy Congress at 
Birmingham, 1877. 


An Address delivered on the occasion of the Presentation of 
a Statue of Priestley to the Town of Birmingham, on 
the 1st of August 1874. Macmillan's Magazine, 1874. 


A Lecture delivered at the Working Men's College, Great 

Ormond Street, 1880. Nineteenth Century, 1880. 


An Evening Lecture at the Royal Institution, Friday, Jan- 
uary 28, 1870. Macmillan's Maffozine, 1874. 





Nature, November 6, 1879. 


An Address delivered at the Meeting of the British Associa- 
tion for the Advancement of Science, at Belfast, 1874. 
Fortnightly Review, 1874. 


An Evening Lecture at the Royal Institution, Friday, March 
7, 1879. Nineteenth Cwtory, 1879. 


The Acyclopcedia Britannica, Ninth Edition, vol. viii. 1878. 


An Evening Lecture at the Boyal Institution, Friday, April 

9 ? 1880. Nature, 1880. 

An Address delivered at the Meeting of the International 
Medical Congress in London, August 9, 1881. 



Six years ago, as some of my present hearers may 
remember, I had the privilege of addressing a large 
assemblage of the inhabitants of this city, who had 
gathered together to do honour to the memory of their 
famous townsman, Joseph Priestley ; * and, if any satis- 
faction attaches to posthumous glory, we may hope that 
the manes of the burnt-out philosopher were then finally 

"No man, however, who is endowed with a fair share 
of common sense, and not more than a fair share of 
vanity, will identify either contemporary or posthumous 
fame with the highest good ; and Priestley's life leaves 
no doubt that he, at any rate, set a much higher value 
upon the advancement of knowledge, and the promotion 
of that freedom of thought which is at once the cause 
and the consequence of intellectual progress. 

Hence I am disposed to think that, if Priestley could 
be amongst us to-day, the occasion of our meeting would 
afford him even greater pleasure than the proceedings 
which celebrated the centenary of his chief discovery. 

* See Joseph Priestley, p. 102, infra. 


The kindly heart would be moved, the high sense of 
social duty would be satisfied, by the spectacle of well- 
earned wealth, neither squandered in tawdry luxury and 
vainglorious show, nor scattered with the careless char- 
ity which blesses neither him that gives nor him that 
takes, but expended in the execution of a well-consid- 
ered plan for the aid of present and future generations 
of those who are willing to help themselves. 

"We shall all be of one mind thus, far. But it is 
needful to share Priestley's keen interest in physical 
science; and to have learned, as he had learned, the 
value of scientific training in fields of inquiry apparently 
far remote from physical science; in order to appre- 
ciate, as he would have appreciated, the value of the 
noble gift which Sir Josiah Mason has bestowed upon 
the inhabitants of the Midland district. 

For us children of the nineteenth century, however, 
the establishment of a college under the conditions of 
Sir Josiah Mason's Trust, has a significance apart from 
any which it could have possessed a hundred years ago. 
It appears to be an indication that we are reaching the 
crisis of the battle, or rather of the long series of bat- 
tles, which have been fought over education in a cam- 
paign which began long before Priestley's time, and will 
probably not be finished just yet. 

In the last century, the combatants were the cham- 
pions of ancient literature, on the one side, and those of 
modem literature on the other ; but, some thirty years * 
* The advocacy of the introduction of physical science into general edu- 


ago, the contest became complicated by the appearance 
of a third army, ranged round the banner of Physical 

I am not aware that any one has authority to speak 
in the name of this new host. For it must be admitted 
to be somewhat of a guerilla force, composed largely of 
irregulars, each of whom fights pretty much for his own 
hand. But the impressions of a full private, who has 
seen a good deal of service in the ranks, respecting the 
present position of affairs and the conditions of a per- 
manent peace, may not be devoid of interest ; and I do 
not know that I could make a better use of the present 
opportunity than by laying them before you. 

From the time that the first suggestion to introduce 
physical science into ordinary education was timidly whis- 
pered, until now, the advocates of scientific education 
have met with opposition of two kinds. On the one 
hand, they have been pooh-poohed by the men of busi- 
ness who pride themselves on being the representatives 
of practicality ; while, on the other hand, they have been 
excommunicated by the classical scholars, in their ca- 
pacity of Levites in charge of the ark of culture and 
monopolists of liberal education. 

The practical men believed that the idol whom they 
worship rule of thumb has been the source of the 
past prosperity, and will suffice for the future welfare 

cation by George Combe and others commenced a good deal earlier ; but 
the movement had acquired hardly any practical force before the time to 
which I refer. 


of the arts and manufactures. They were of opinion 
that science is speculative rubbish ; that theory and prac- 
tice have nothing to do with one another ; and that the 
scientific habit of mind is an impediment, rather than an 
aid, in the conduct of ordinary affairs. 

I have used the past tense in speaking of the prac- 
tical men for although they were very formidable thirty 
years ago, I am not sure that the pure species has not 
been extirpated. In fact, so far as mere argument goes, 
they have been subjected to such a feu d'enfer that it 
is a miracle if any have escaped. But I have remarked 
that your typical practical man has an unexpected re- 
semblance to one of Milton's angels. His spiritual 
wounds, such as are inflicted by logical weapons, may 
be as deep as a well and as wide as a church door, but 
beyond shedding a few drops of ichor, celestial or other- 
wise, he is no whit the worse. So, if any of these op- 
ponents be left, I will not waste time in vain repetition 
of the demonstrative evidence of the practical value of 
science; but knowing that a parable will sometimes 
penetrate where syllogisms fail to effect an entrance, I 
will offer a story for their consideration. 

Once upon a time, a boy, with nothing to depend 
upon but his own vigorous nature, was thrown into tlio 
thick of the struggle for existence in the midst of a 
great manufacturing population. He seotas to have had 
a hard fight, inasmuch as, by the time ho was thirty 
years of age, his total disposable funds amounted to 
twenty pounds. Nevertheless, middle life found Mm 


giving proof of his comprehension of the practical prob- 
lems he had been roughly called upon to solve, by a 
career of remarkable prosperity. 

Finally, having reached old age with its well-earned 
surroundings of "honour, troops of friends," the hero 
of my story bethought himself of those who were mak- 
ing a like start in life, and how he could stretch out a 
helping hand to them. 

After long and anxious reflection this successful prac- 
tical man of business could devise nothing better than 
to provide them with the means of obtaining "sound, 
extensive, and practical scientific knowledge." And he 
devoted a large part of his wealth and five years of 
incessant work to this end. 

I need not point the moral of a tale which, as the 
solid and spacious fabric of the Scientific College as- 
sures us, is no fable, nor can anything which I could 
say intensify the force of this practical answer to prac- 
tical objections. 

We may take it for granted then, that, in the opin- 
ion of those best qualified to judge, the diffusion of 
thorough scientific education is an absolutely essential 
condition of industrial progress ; and that 'the College 
which has been opened to-day will confer an inestima- 
ble boon upon those whose livelihood is to be gained 
by the practice of the arts and manufactures of the 

The only question worth discussion is, whether the 


conditions, under which the work of the College is to 
be carried out, are such as to give it the best possible 
chance of achieving permanent success. 

Sir Josiah Mason, without doubt most wisely, has 
left very large freedom of action to the trustees, to 
whom he proposes ultimately to commit the administra- 
tion of the College, so that they may be able to adjust 
its arrangements in accordance with the changing con- 
ditions of the future. But, with respect to three points, 
he has laid most explicit injunctions upon both admistra- 
tors and teachers. 

Party politics are forbidden to enter into the minds 
of either, so far as the work of the College is concerned ; 
theology is as sternly banished from its precincts ; and 
finally, it is especially declared that the College shall 
make no provision for "mere literary instruction and 

It does not concern me at present to dwell upon the 
first two injunctions any longer than may be needful to 
express my full conviction of their wisdom. But the 
third prohibition brings us face to face with those other 
opponents of scientific education, who are by no means 
in the moribund condition of the practical man, but 
alive, alert, and formidable. 

It is not impossible that we shall hear this express 
exclusion, of "literary instruction and education" from 
a College which, nevertheless, professes to give a high 
and efficient education, sharply criticised. Certainly the 
time was that the Levites of culture would hare sounded 


their trumpets against its walls as against an educational 

How often have we not been told that the study of 
physical science is incompetent to confer culture; that 
it touches none of the higher problems of life ; and, what 
is worse, that the continual devotion to scientific studies 
tends to generate a narrow and bigoted belief in the 
applicability of scientific methods to the search after 
truth of all kinds. How frequently one has reason to 
observe that no reply to a troublesome argument tells 
so well as calling its author a "mere scientific special- 
ist." And, as I am afraid it is not permissible to speak 
of this form of opposition to scientific education in the 
past tense ; may we not expect to be told that this, not 
only omission, but prohibition, of " mere literary instruc- 
tion and education " is a patent example of scientific nar- 
row-mindedness ? 

I am not acquainted with Sir Josiah Mason's reasons 
for the action which he has taken; but if, as I appre- 
hend is the case, he refers to the ordinary classical course 
of our schools and universities by the name of " mere 
literary instruction and education," I venture to offer 
sundry reasons of my own in support of that action. 

For I hold very strongly by two convictions The 
first is, that neither the discipline nor the subject-matter 
of classical education is of such direct value to the stu- 
dent of physical science as to justify the expenditure 
of valuable time upon either; and the second is, that 
for the purpose of attaining real culture, an exclusively 


"scientific education is at least as effectual as an exclu- 
sively literary education. 

I need hardly point out to you that these opinions, 
especially the later, are diametrically opposed to those 
of the great majority of educated Englishmen, influenced 
as they are by school and university traditions. In their 
belief, culture is obtainable only by a liberal education ; 
and a liberal education is synonymous, not merely with 
education and instruction in. literature, but in one par- 
ticular form of literature, namely, that of Greek and 
Eoman antiquity. They hold that the man who has 
learned Latin and Greek, however little, is educated ; 
while he who is versed in other branches of knowledge, 
however deeply, is a more or less respectable specialist, 
not admissible into the cultured caste. The stamp of 
the educated man, the University degree, is not for him. 

I am too well acquainted with the generous catho- 
licity of spirit, the true sympathy with scientific thought, 
which pervades the writings of our chief apostlo of cul- 
ture to identify him with these opinions; and yet one 
may cull from one and another of those epistles to the 
Philistines, which so much delight all who do not an- 
swer to that name, sentences which lend them some sup- 

Mr. Arnold tells us that the meaning of culture is 
"to know the best that has boon thought and said in 
the world." It is the criticism of life contained in 
literature. That criticism regards " Europe as being, 
for intellectual and spiritual purposes, one great con- 


federation, bound to a joint action and working to a 
common result ; and whose members have, for their com- 
mon outfit, a knowledge of Greek, Boman, and Eastern 
antiquity, and of one another. Special, local, and tem- 
porary advantages being put out of account, that mod- 
ern nation will in the intellectual and spiritual sphere 
make most progress, which most thoroughly carries out 
this programme. And what is that but saying that we 
too, all of us, as individuals, the more thoroughly we 
carry it out, shall make the more progress? 35 * 

We have here to deal with two distinct propositions. 
The first, that a criticism of life is the essence of culture ; 
the second, that literature contains the materials which 
suffice for the construction of such a criticism. 

I think that we must all assent to the first proposi- 
tion. For culture certainly means something quite dif- 
ferent from learning or technical skill. It implies the 
possession of an ideal, and the habit of critically esti- 
mating the value of things by comparison with a theo- 
retic standard. Perfect culture should supply a complete 
theory of life, based upon a clear knowledge alike of its 
possibilities and of its limitations. 

But we may agree to all this, and yet strongly dissent 
from the assumption that literature alone is competent 
to supply this knowledge. After having learnt all that 
Greek, Roman, and Eastern antiquity have thought and 
said, and all that modern literatures have to tell us, it 
is not self-evident that we have laid a sufficiently broad 

* Mssays in Criticism^ p. 3*7. 


and deep foundation for that criticism of life wliicli 
constitutes culture. 

Indeed, to any one acquainted with the scope of 
physical science, it is not at all evident. Considering 
progress only in. the " intellectual and spiritual sphere," 
I find myself wholly unable to admit that either nations 
or individuals will really advance, if their common out- 
fit draws nothing from the stores of physical science. I 
should say that an army, without weapons of precision, 
and with no particular base of operations, might more 
hopefully enter upon a campaign on the Ehine, than a 
man, devoid of a knowledge of what physical science has 
done in the last century, upon a criticism of life. 

"When a biologist meets with an anomaly, he in- 
stinctively turns to the study of development to clear 
it up. The rationale of contradictory opinions may 
with equal confidence be sought in history. 

It is, happily, no new thing that Englishmen should 
employ their wealth in building and endowing institu- 
tions for educational purposes. But, five or six hundred 
years ago, deeds of foundation expressed or implied con- 
ditions as nearly as possible contrary to those which have 
been thought expedient by Sir Josiah Mason. That is 
to say, physical science was practically ignored, while a 
certain literary training was enjoined as a means to the 
acquirement of knowledge which was essentially theo- 

The reason of this singular contradiction between the 


actions of men alike animated by a strong and disin- 
terested desire to promote the welfare of their fellows, 
is easily discovered. 

At that time, in fact, if any one desired knowledge 
beyond such as could be obtained by his own observa- 
tion, or by common conversation, his first necessity was 
to learn the Latin language, inasmuch as all the higher 
knowledge of the western world was contained in works 
written in that language. Hence, Latin grammar, with 
logic and rhetoric, studied through Latin, were the fun- 
damentals of education. With respect to the substance 
of the knowledge imparted through this channel, the 
Jewish and Christian Scriptures, as interpreted and sup- 
plemented by the Romish Church, were held to contain 
a complete and infallibly true body of information. 

Theological dicta were, to the thinkers of those days, 
that which the axioms and definitions of Euclid are to 
the geometers of these. The business of the philosophers 
of the middle ages was to deduce from the data furnished 
by the theologians, conclusions in accordance with eccle- 
siastical decrees. They were allowed the high privilege 
of showing, by logical process, how and why that which 
the Church said was true, must be true. And if their 
demonstrations fell short of or exceeded this limit, the 
Church was maternally ready to check their aberrations, 
if need be, by the help of the secular arm. 

Between the two, our ancestors were furnished with 
a compact and complete criticism of life. They were 
told how the world began, and how it would end ; they 


learned that all material existence was but a base and in- 
significant blot up6n the fair face of the spiritual world, 
and that nature was, to all intents and purposes, the play- 
ground of the devil ; they learned that the earth is the 
centre of the visible universe, and that man is the cyno- 
sure of things terrestrial ; and more especially is it in- 
culcated 1 that the course of nature had no fixed order, 
but that it could be, and constantly was, altered by the 
agency of innumerable spiritual beings, good and bad, 
according as they were moved by the deeds and prayers 
of men. The sum and substance of the whole doctrine 
was to produce the conviction that the only thing really 
worth knowing in this world was how to secure that 
place in a better which, under certain conditions, the 
Church promised. 

Oar ancestors had a living belief in this theory of 
life, and acted upon it in their dealings with education, 
as in all other matters. Culture meant saintlincss after" 
the fashion of the saints of those days; the education 
that led to it was, of necessity, theological ; and the way 
to theology lay through Latin. 

That the study of nature further than was requisite 
for the satisfaction of everyday wants should have any 
bearing on human life was far from the thoughts of men 
thus trained. Indeed, as nature had been cursed for 
man's sake, it was an obvious conclusion that those who 
meddled with nature were likely to come into pretty 
close contact with Satan. And, if any born scientific in- 
vestigator followed his instincts, he might safely reckon 


upon earning the reputation, and probably npou suffering 
the fate, of a sorcerer. 

Had the western world been left to itself in Chinese 
isolation, there is no saying how long this state of things 
might haye endured. But, happily, it was not left to 
itself. Even earlier than the thirteenth century, the de- 
velopment of Moorish civilisation in Spain and the great 
movement of the Crusades had introduced the leaven 
which, from that day to this, has never ceased to work. 
At first, through the intermediation of Arabic transla- 
tions, afterwards, by the study of the originals, the west- 
ern nations of Europe became acquainted with the writ- 
ings of the ancient philosophers and poets, and, in time, 
with the whole of the vast literature of antiquity. 

Whatever there was of high intellectual aspiration or 
dominant capacity in Italy, France, Germany, and Eng- 
land, spent itself for centuries in taking possession of 
the rich inheritance left by the dead civilisations of 
Greece and Kome. Marvellously aided by the invention 
of printing, classical learning spread and flourished. 
Those who possessed it prided themselves on having at- 
tained the highest culture then within the reach of man- 

And justly. For, saving Dante on his solitary pin- 
nacle, there was no figure in modem literature at the 
time of the Renascence to compare with the men of anti- 
quity ; there was no art to compete with their sculpture ; 
there was no physical science but that which Greece had 
created. Above all, there was no other example of per- 


feet intellectual freedom of the unhesitating acceptance 
of reason as the sole guide to truth and the supreme 
arbiter of conduct. 

The new learning necessarily soon exerted a profound 
influence upon education. The language of the monks 
and schoolmen seemed little better than gibberish to 
scholars fresh from Virgil and Cicero, and the study of 
Latin was placed upon a new foundation- Moreover, 
Latin itself ceased to afford the sole key to knowledge. 
The student who sought the highest thought of anti- 
quity, found only a second-hand reflection of it in Ro- 
man literature, and turned his face to the full light of 
the Greeks. And after a battle, not altogether dissimilar 
to that which is at present being fought over the teach- 
ing of physical science, the study of Greek was recog- 
nised as an essential element of all higher education. 

Thus the Humanists, as they wore called, won the 
day ; and the great reform which they effected was of 
incalculable service to mankind* But the Nemesis of all 
reformers is finality; and the reformers of education, 
like those of religion, fell into the profound, however 
common, error of mistaking the beginning for tlie end 
of the work of reformation. 

The representatives of the Humanists, in the nine- 
teenth century, take their stand upon classical education 
as the sole avenue to culture, as firmly as if we were still 
in the age of Eenascence. Yet, surely, the present intel- 
lectual relations of the modern and the ancient worlds 
are profoundly different from those which obtained three 


centuries ago. Leaving aside the existence of a great 
and characteristically modern literature, of modern paint- 
ing, and, especially, of modern music, there is one feat- 
ure of the present state of the civilised world which 
separates it more widely from the Renascence, than the 
Renascence was separated from the middle ages. 

This distinctive character of our own times lies in the 
vast and constantly increasing part which is played by 
natural knowledge. Not only is our daily life shaped by 
it, not only does the prosperity of millions of men de- 
pend upon it, but our whole theory of life has long been 
influenced, consciously or unconsciously, by the general 
conceptions of the universe, which have been forced 
upon us by physical science. 

In fact, the most elementary acquaintance with the 
results of scientific investigation shows us that they offer 
a broad and striking contradiction to the opinions so im- 
plicitly credited and taught in the middle ages. 

The notions of the beginning and the "end of the 
world entertained by our forefathers are no longer cred- 
ible. It is very certain that the earth is not the chief 
body in the material universe, and that the world is not 
subordinated to man's use. It is evert more certain that 
nature is the expression of a definite order with which 
nothing interferes, and that the chief business of man- 
kind is to learn that order and govern themselves accord- 
ingly. Moreover this scientific " criticism of life " pre- 
sents itself to us with different credentials from any 
other. It appeals not to authority, nor to what anybody 


may have thought or said, but to nature. It admits that 
all our interpretations of natural fact are more or less 
imperfect and symbolic, and bids the learner seek for 
truth not among words but among things. It warns us 
that the assertion which outstrips evidence is not only 
a blunder but a crime. 

The purely classical education advocated by the rep- 
resentatives of the Humanists in our day, gives no ink- 
ling of all this. A man may be a. better scholar than 
Erasmus, and know no more of the chief causes of the 
present intellectual fermentation than Erasmus did. 
Scholarly and pious persons, worthy of all respect, fa- 
vour us with allocutions upon the sadness of the antag- 
onism of science to their mediaeval way of thinking, 
which betray an ignorance of the first principles of sci- 
entific investigation, an incapacity for understanding 
what a man of science means by veracity, and &n tin- 
consciousness of the weight of established scientific 
truths, which is almost comical. 

There is no, great force in the tu gruogue argument, 
or else the advocates of scientific education might fairly 
enough retort upon the modern Humanists that they 
may be learned specialists, but that they possess no such 
sound foundation for a criticism of life as deserves the 
name of culture. And, indeed, if we were disposed to 
be cruel, we might urge that the Humanists have 
brought this reproach upon themselves, not because they 
are too full of the spirit of the ancient Greek, "but 
because they lack it. 


The period of the Eenascence is commonly called 
that of the "Revival of Letters," as if the influences 
then brought to bear upon the mind of "Western Europe 
has been wholly exhausted in the field of literature. I 
think it is very commonly forgotten that the revival of 
science, effected by the same agency, although less con- 
spicuous, was not less momentous. 

In fact, the few and scattered students of nature of 
that day picked up the clue to her secrets exactly as it 
fell from the hands of the Greeks a thousand years 
before. The foundations of mathematics were so well 
laid by them, that our children learn their geometry 
from a book written for the schools of Alexandria two 
thousand years ago. Modern astronomy is the natural 
continuation and development of the work of Hipparchus 
and of Ptolemy ; modern physics of that of Demoeritus 
and of Archimedes; it was long before modern bio- 
logical science outgrew the knowledge bequeathed to us 
by Aristotle, by Theophrastus, and by Galen. 

We cannot know all the best thoughts and sayings 
of the Greeks unless we know what they thought about 
natural phenomena. We cannot fully apprehend their 
criticism of life unless we understand the extent to 
which that criticism was affected by scientific concep- 
tions. We falsely pretend to be the inheritors of their 
culture, unless we are penetrated, as the best nrinds 
among them were, with an unhesitating faith that the 
free employment of reason, in accordance with scientific 
method, is the sole method of reaching truth. 


Thus I venture to think that the pretensions of our 
modern Humanists to the possession of the monopoly 
of culture and to the exclusive inheritance of the spirit 
of antiquity must be abated, if not abandoned. But I 
should be very sorry that anything I have said should 
be taken to imply a desire on my part to depreciate 
the value of classical education, as it might be and as 
it sometimes is. The native capacities of mankind vary 
no less than their opportunities ; and while culture is 
one, the road by -which one man may best reach it is 
widely different from that which is most advantageous 
to another. Again, while scientific education is yet in- 
choate and tentative, classical education is thoroughly 
well organised upon the practical experience of genera- 
tions of teachers. So that, given ample time for learn- 
ing and destination for ordinary life, or for a literary 
career, I do not think that a young Englishman in 
search of culture can do better than follow the course 
usually marked out for him, supplementing its deficien- 
cies by his own efforts. 

But for those who mean to make science their seri- 
ous occupation ; or who intend to follow the profession 
of medicine ; or who have to enter early upon the busi- 
ness of life; for all those, in my opinion, classical edu- 
cation is a mistake ; and it is for this reason that I am 
glad to see "mere literary education and instruction" 
shut out from the curriculum of Sir Josiah Mason'B Col- 
lege, seeing that its inclusion would probably lead to the in- 
troduction of the ordinary smattering of Latin and Greek, 


Nevertheless, I am the last person to question the 
importance of genuine literary education, or to suppose 
that intellectual culture can be complete without it. An 
exclusively scientific training will bring about a mental 
twist as surely as an exclusively literary training. The 
value of the cargo does not compensate for a ship's being 
out of trim ; and I should be very sorry to think that 
the Scientific College would turn out none but lop-sided 

There is no need, however, that such a catastrophe 
should happen. Instruction in English, French, and 
German is provided, and thus the three greatest litera- 
tures of the modern world are made accessible to the 

French and German, and especially the latter lan- 
guage, are absolutely indispensable to those who desire 
full knowledge in any department of science. But even 
supposing that the knowledge of these languages ac- 
quired is not more than sufficient for purely scientific 
purposes,- every Englishman has, in his native tongue, an 
almost perfect instrument of literary expression ; and, in 
his own literature, models of every kind of literary ex- 
cellence. If an Englishman cannot get literary culture 
out of his Bible, his Shakspeare, his Milton, neither, in 
my belief, will the profoundest study of Homer and 
Sophocles, Virgil and Horace, give it to him. 

Thus, since the constitution of the College makes 
sufficient provision for literary as well as for scientific 
education, and since artistic instruction is also contem- 


plated, it seems to me that a fairly complete culture is 
offered to all who are willing to take advantage of it. 

But I am not sure that at this point the " practical " 
man, scotched but not slain, may ask what all this talk 
about culture has to do with an Institution, the object 
of which is defined to be " to promote the prosperity of 
the manufactures and the industry of the country." 
He may suggest that what is wanted for this end is not 
culture, nor even a purely scientific discipline, but sim- 
ply a knowledge of applied science. 

I often wish that this phrase, " applied science, 3 ' had 
never been invented. For it suggests that there is a 
sort of scientific knowledge of direct practical use, which 
can be studied apart from another sort of scientific 
knowledge, which is of no practical utility, and which 
is termed "pure science." But there is no more com- 
plete fallacy than this. "What people call applied science 
is nothing but the application of pure science to par- 
ticular classes of problems* It consists of deductions 
from those general principles, established by reasoning 
and observation^ which constitute pure science. N*o 
one can safely make these deductions until ho has a 
firm grasp of the principles; and he can obtain that 
grasp only by personal experience of the operations 
of observation and of reasoning on which they arc 

Almost all the processes employed in the arts and 
manufactures fall within the range either of physics or 


of chemistry. In order to improve them, one must thor- 
oughly understand them; and no one has a chance of 
really understanding them, unless he has obtained that 
mastery of principles and that habit of dealing with 
facts, which is given by long-continued and well-directed 
purely scientific training in the physical and the chemi- 
cal laboratory. So that there really is no question as to 
the necessity of purely scientific discipline, even if the 
work of the College were limited by the narrowest in- 
terpretation of its stated aims. 

And, as to the desirableness of a wider culture than 
that yielded by science alone, it is to be recollected that 
the improvement of manufacturing processes is only one 
of the conditions which contribute to the prosperity of 
industry. Industry is a means and not an end; and 
mankind work only to get something which they want. 
What that something is depends partly on their innate, 
and partly on their acquired, desires. 

If the w r ealth resulting from prosperous industry is 
to be spent upon the gratification of unworthy desires, if 
the increasing perfection of manufacturing processes is 
to be accompanied by an increasing debasement of those 
who carry them on, I do not see the good of industry 
and prosperity. 

Now it is perfectly true that men's views of what 
is desirable depend upon their characters ; and that the 
innate proclivities to which we give that name are not 
touched by any amount of instruction. But it does not 
follow that even mere intellectual education may not, to 


an indefinite extent, modify the practical manifestation 
of the characters of men in their actions, by supplying 
them with motives unknown to the ignorant. A pleas- 
ure-loving character will have pleasure of some sort ; 
but, if you give him the choice, he may prefer pleasures 
which do not degrade him to those which do. And this 
choice is offered to every man, who possesses in literary 
or artistic culture a never-failing source of pleasures, 
which are neither withered by age, nor staled by cus- 
tom, nor embittered in the recollection by the pangs of 

If the Institution opened to-day fulfils the intention 
of its founder, the picked intelligences among all classes 
of the population of this district will pass through it. 
No child born in Birmingham, henceforward, if he have 
the capacity to profit by the opportunities offered to 
him, first in the primary and other schools, and after- 
wards in the Scientific College, need fail to obtain, not 
merely the instruction, but the culture most appropriate 
to the conditions of his life. 

Within these walls, the future employer and the 
future artisan may sojourn together for a while, and 
carry, through all their lives, the stamp of the influences 
then brought to bear upon them. Hence, it is not 
beside the mark to remind you, that the prosperity of 
industry depends not merely upon the improvement of 
manufacturing processes, not merely upon the ennobling 
of the individual character, but upon a third condition, 
namely, a clear understanding of the conditions of social 


life on the part of both the capitalist and the operative, 
and their agreement upon common principles of social 
action. They must learn that social phenomena are as 
much the expression of natural laws as any others ; that 
no social arrangements can be permanent unless they 
harmonise with the requirements of social statics and 
dynamics ; and that, in the nature of things, there is an 
arbiter whose decisions execute themselves. 

But this knowledge is only to be obtained by the 
application of the methods of investigation adopted in 
physical researches to the investigation of the phe- 
nomena of society. Hence, I confess, I should like to see 
one addition made to the excellent scheme of education 
propounded for the College, in the shape of provision for 
the teaching of Sociology. For though we are all agreed 
that party politics are to have no place in the instruction, 
of the College ; yet in this country, practically governed 
as it is now by universal suffrage, every man who does 
his duty must exercise political functions. And, if the 
evils which are inseparable from the good of political 
liberty are to be checked, if the perpetual oscillation of 
nations between anarchy and despotism is to be replaced 
by the steady march of self -restraining freedom ; it will 
be because men will gradually bring themselves to deal 
with political, as they now deal with scientific questions ; 
to be as ashamed of undue haste and partisan prejudice 
in the one case as in the other ; and to believe that the 
machinery of society is at least as delicate as that of a 
spinning-jenny, and as little likely to be improved by the 


meddling of those who have not taken the trouble to 
master the principles of its action. 

In conclusion, I am sure that I make myself the 
mouthpiece of all present in offering to the venerable 
founder of the Institution, which now commences its 
beneficent career, our congratulations on the completion 
of his work ; and in expressing the conviction, that the 
remotest posterity will point to it as a crucial instance of 
the wisdom which natural piety leads all men to ascribe 
to their ancestors. 



ELECTED by tlie suffrages of your four Nations, Rector 
of the ancient University of which you are scholars, I 
take the earliest opportunity which has presented itself 
since my restoration to health, of delivering the Address 
which, by long custom, is expected of the holder of 
my office. 

My first duty in opening that Address, is to offer 
you my most hearty thanks for the signal honour you 
have conferred upon me an honour of which, as a man 
unconnected with you by personal or by national ties, 
devoid of political distinction, and a plebeian who stands 
by his order, I could not have dreamed. And it was the 
more surprising to me, as the five-and-twenty years 
which have passed over my head since I reached intel- 
lectual manhood, have been largely spent in no half- 
hearted advocacy of doctrines which have not yet found 
favour in the eyes of Academic respectability; so that, 
when the proposal to nominate me for your Kector came, 
I was almost as much astonished as was Hal o 3 the 
"Wynd, "who fought for his own hand," by the Black 
Douglas's proffer of knighthood. And I fear that my 


acceptance must be taken as evidence that, less wise than 
the Armourer of Perth, I have not yet done with sol- 

In fact, if, for a moment, I imagined that your in- 
tention was simply, in the kindness of your hearts, to 
do me honour; and that the Hector of your Univer- 
sity, like that of some other Universities, was one of 
those happy beings who sit in glory for three years, with 
nothing to do for it save the making of a speech, a con- 
versation with my distinguished predecessor soon dis- 
pelled the dream. I found that, by the constitution of 
the University of Aberdeen, the incumbent of the Rec- 
torate is, if not a power, at any rate a potential energy ; 
and that, whatever may be his chances of success or fail- 
ure, it is his duty to convert that potential energy into 
a living force, directed towards such ends as may seem 
to him conducive to the welfare of the corporation of 
which he is the theoretical head. 

I need not tell you that your late Lord Rector took 
this view of his position, and acted upon it with the 
comprehensive, far-seeing insight into the actual condi- 
tion and tendencies, not merely of his own, but of other 
countries, which is his honourable characteristic among 
statesmen. I have already done my best, and, as long 
as I hold my office, I shall continue my endeavours, to 
follow in the path which he trod; to do what in me 
lies, to bring this University nearer to the ideal alas, 
that I should be obliged to say ideal of all Universi- 
ties; whichj as I conceive, should bo places in which 


thought is free from all fetters ; and in which all sources 
of knowledge, and all aids to learning, should be acces- 
sible to all comers, without distinction of creed or coun- 
try, riches or poverty. 

Do not suppose, however, that I am sanguine enough 
to expect much to come of any poor efforts of mine. 
If your annals take any notice of my incumbency, I 
shall probably go down to posterity as the Rector who 
was always beaten. But if they add, as I think they 
will, that my defeats became victories in the hands of 
my successors, I 7 shall be well content. 

The scenes are shifting in the great theatre of the 
world. The act which commenced with the Protestant 
Reformation is nearly played out, and a wider and a 
deeper change than that effected three centuries ago a 
reformation, or rather a revolution of thought, the ex- 
tremes of which are represented by the intellectual heirs 
of John of Leyden and of Ignatius Loyola, rather than 
by those of Luther and of Leo is waiting to come on, 
nay, visible behind the scenes to those who have good 
eyes. Men are beginning, once more, to awake to the 
fact that matters of belief and of speculation are of ab- 
solutely infinite practical importance ; and are drawing 
off from that sunny country "where it is always after- 
noon" the sleepy hollow of broad indifferentism to 
range themselves under their natural banners. Change 
is in the air. It is whirling feather-heads into all sorts 
of eccentric orbits, and filling the steadiest with a sense 


of insecurity. It insists on reopening all questions and 
asking all institutions, however venerable, by what right 
they exist, and whether they are, or are not, in harmony 
with the real or supposed wants of mankind. And it 
is remarkable that these searching inquiries are not so 
much forced on institutions from without, as developed 
from within. Consummate scholars question the value 
of learning ; priests contemn dogma ; and women turn 
their backs upon man's ideal of perfect womanhood, 
and seek satisfaction in apocalyptic visions of some, as 
yet unrealised, epicene reality. *" 

If there be a type of stability in this world, one 
would be inclined to look for it in the old Universities 
of England. But it has been my business of late to hear 
a good deal about what is going on in these famous 
corporations; and I have been filled with astonishment 
by the evidences of internal fermentation which they 
exhibit. If Gibbon could revisit the ancient scat of 
learning of which he has written so cavalierly, assuredly 
he would no longer speak of "the monks of Oxford 
sunk in prejudice and port." There, as elsewhere, port 
has gone out of fashion, and so has prejudice at least 
that particular fine, old, crusted sort of prejudice to 
which the great historian alludes. 

Indeed, things are moving so fast in Oxford and 
Cambridge, that, for my part, I rejoiced when the Royal 
Commission, of which I am a member, had finished and 
presented the Report which related to these Universi- 
ties; for we should have looked like mere plagiarists, 


if, in consequence of a little longer delay in issuing it, 
all the measures of reform we proposed had been an- 
ticipated by the spontaneous action of the Universities 

A month ago I should have gone on to say that one 
might speedily expect changes of another kind in Ox- 
ford and Cambridge. A Commission has been inquir- 
ing into the revenues of the many wealthy societies, in 
more or less direct connection with the Universities, 
resident in those towns. It is said that the Commis- 
sion has reported, and that, for the first time in recorded 
history, the nation, and perhaps the Colleges themselves, 
will know what they are worth. And it was announced 
that a statesman, who, whatever his other merits or de- 
fects, has aims above the level of mere party fighting, 
and a clear vision into the most complex practical prob- 
lems, meant to deal with these revenues. 

But, Sos locutus est. That mysterious independent 
variable of political calculation, Public Opinion which 
some whisper is, in the present case, very much the 
same thing as publican's opinion has willed otherwise. 
The Heads may return to their wonted slumbers at 
any rate for a space. 

Is the spirit of change, which is working thus vigor- 
ously in the South, likely to affect the Northern Uni- 
versities, and if so, to what extent? The violence of 
fermentation depends, not so much on the quantity of 
the yeast, as on the composition of the wort, and its 
richness in fermentable material ; and, as a preliminary 


to the discussion of this question, I venture to call to 
your minds the essential and fundamental differences 
between the Scottish and the English type of Univer- 

Do not charge me with anything worse than official 
egotism, if I say that these differences appear to be 
largely symbolised by my own existence. There is no 
Eector in an English University. Now, the organisa- 
tion of the members of an University into Nations, 
with their elective Hector, is the last relic of the primi- 
tive constitution of Universities. The Kectorate was 
the most important of all offices in that University of 
Paris, upon the model of which the University of Aber- 
deen was fashioned; and which was certainly a great 
and flourishing institution in the twelfth century. 

Enthusiasts for the antiquity of one of the two 
acknowledged parents of all Universities, indeed, do 
not hesitate to trace the origin of the " Stadium Parisi- 
ense" up to that wonderful king of the Franks and 
Lombards, Karl, surnamed the Great, whom wo all 
called Charlemagne, and believed to be a Frenchman, 
until a learned historian, by benelicent iteration, taught 
us better. Karl is said not to have been much of a 
scholar himself, but he had the wisdom of winch knowl- 
edge is only the servitor. And that wisdom enabled 
him to see that ignorance is one of the roots of all 

In the Capitulary which enjoins the foundation of 
monasterial and cathedral schools, he says; "Eight ac- 


tion is better than knowledge ; but in order to do what 
is right, we must know what is right." * An irre- 
fragable truth, I fancy. Acting upon it, the king 
took pretty full compulsory powers, and carried into 
effect a really considerable and effectual scheme of ele- 
mentary education through, the length and breadth of 
his dominions. 

No doubt the idolaters out by the Elbe, in what is 
now part of Prussia, objected to the Frankish king's 
measures; no doubt the priests, who had never hesi- 
tated about sacrificing all unbelievers in their fantastic 
deities and futile conjurations, were the loudest in chant- 
ing the virtues of toleration ; no doubt they denounced 
as a cruel persecutor the man who would not allow 
them, however sincere they might be, to go on spread- 
ing delusions which debased the intellect, as much as 
they deadened the moral sense, and undermined the 
bonds of civil allegiance ; no doubt, if they had lived 
in these times, they would have been able to show, 
with ease, that the king's proceedings were totally con- 
trary to the best liberal principles. But it may be said, 
in justification of the Teutonic ruler, first, that he was 
born before those principles, and did not suspect that 
the best way of getting disorder into order was to let 
it alone; and, secondly, that his rough and question- 
able proceedings did, more or less, bring about the end 

* " Quamvis cnim melius sit bene facere qtiam nosse, prius tatnen. 
est nosse quam facere." "Karoli Magni Regis Constitutio de Scholia 
per singula Episcopia et Monasteria instituendis," addressed to the Abbot 
of Fulda. Baluzius, *' Oapitulana Regum Francorum," T. L, p. 202. 


lie liad in view. For, in a couple of centuries, the 
schools lie sowed broadcast produced their crop of men, 
thirsting for knowledge and craving for culture. Such 
men gravitating towards Paris, as a light amidst the 
darkness of evil days, from Germany, from Spain, from. 
Britain, and from Scandinavia, came together by natu- 
ral affinity. By degrees they banded themselves into 
a society, which, as its end was the knowledge of all 
things knowable, called itself a "Studiwn General $" 
and when it had grown into a recognised corporation, 
acquired the name of " Uniwrsitas Studii Gcneralis" 
which, mark you, means not a " Useful Knowledge So- 
ciety," but a " Knowledge-of -things-in-general Society." 

And thus the first "University," at any rate on 
this side of the Alps, came into being. Originally it 
had but one Faculty, that of Arts. Its aim was to be 
a centre of knowledge and culture ; not to be, in any 
sense, a technical school. 

The scholars seem to have studied Grammar, Logic, 
and Rhetoric; Arithmetic and Geometry; Astronomy; 
Theology; and Music. Thus, their work, however im- 
perfect and faulty, judged by modem lights, it may 
have been, brought them face to face with all the 
leading aspects of the many-sided mind of man. For 
these studies did -really contain, at any rate in embryo 
sometimes, it may be, in caricattiro what wo now 
call Philosophy, Mathematical and Physical Science, 
and Art. And I doubt if the curriculum of any mod- 
ern University shows so clear and generous a eompro 


tension of what is meant by culture, as this old Tri- 
vium and Quadrivium does. 

The students who had passed through the Univer- 
sity course, and had proved themselves competent to 
teach, became masters and teachers of their younger 
brethren. "Whence the distinction of Masters and Ee- 
gents on the one hand, and Scholars on the other. 

Rapid growth necessitated organisation. The Mas- 
ters and Scholars of various tongues and countries 
grouped themselves into four Nations ; and the Nations, 
by their own votes at first, and subsequently by those 
of their Procurators, or representatives, elected their 
supreme head and governor, the Hector at that time 
the sole representative of the University, and a very 
real power, who could defy Provosts interfering from 
without; or could inflict even corporal punishment on 
disobedient members within the University. 

Such was the primitive constitution of the Univer- 
sity of Paris. It is in reference to this original state of 
things that I have spoken of the Electorate, and all that 
appertains to it, as the sole relic of that constitution. 

But this original organisation did not last long. 
Society was not then, any more than it is now, patient 
of culture, as such. It says to everything, " Be useful 
to me, or away with you." And to the learned, the 
unlearned man said then, as he does now, "What is 
the use of all your learning, unless you can tell me 
what I want to know? I am here blindly groping 
about, and constantly damaging myself by collision 


witli three mighty powers, the power of the invisible 
God, the power of my fellow Man, and the power of 
brute Nature. Let your learning be turned to the 
study of these powers, that I may know how I am to 
comport myself with regard to them." In answer to 
this demand, some of the Masters of the Faculty of 
Arts devoted themselves to the study of Theology, 
some to that of Law, and some to that of Medicine ; 
and they became Doctors men learned in those tech- 
nical, or, as we now call them, professional, branches 
of knowledge. Like cleaving to like, the Doctors formed 
schools, or Faculties, of Theology, Law, and Medicine, 
which sometimes assumed airs of superiority over their 
parent, the Faculty of Arts, though the latter always 
asserted and maintained its fundamental supremacy. 

The Faculties arose by process of natural differentia- 
tion out of the primitive University. Other constitu- 
ents, foreign to its nature, were speedily grafted upon 
it. One of these extraneous elements was forced into 
it by the Roman Church, which in those days assorted 
with effect, that which it now asserts, happily without 
any effect in these realms, its right of censorship and 
control over all teaching. The local habitation of the 
University lay partly in the lands attached to the monas- 
tery of S. Genevi&ve, partly in the diocoao of the Bishop 
of Paris ; and he who would teach must have the licence 
of the Abhot, or of the Bishop, as the nearest representa- 
tive of the Pope, so to do, which licence was granted by 
the Chancellors of these Ecclesiastics. 


Thus, if I am what archaeologists call a " survival " 
of the primitive head and ruler of the University, your 
Chancellor stands in the same relation to the Papacy; 
and, with all respect for his Grace, I think I may say 
that we both look terribly shrunken when compared 
with our great originals. 

Not so is it with a second foreign element, which 
silently dropped into the soil of Universities, like the 
grain of mustard-seed in the parable; and, like that 
grain, grew into a tree 3 in whose branches a whole aviary 
of fowls took shelter. That element is the element of 
Endowment. It differed from the preceding, in its 
original design to serve as a prop to the young plant, not 
to be a parasite upon it. The charitable and the humane, 
blessed with wealth, were very early penetrated by the 
misery of the poor student. And the wise saw that in- 
tellectual ability is not so common or so unimportant a 
gift that it should be allowed to run to waste upon mere 
handicrafts and chares. The man who was a blessing to 
his contemporaries, but who so often has been converted 
into a curse, by the blind adherence of his posterity to 
the letter, rather than to the spirit, of his wishes I mean 
the "pious founder" gave money and lands, that the 
student, who was rich in brain and poor in all else, might 
be taken from the plough or from the stithy, and enabled 
to devote himself to the higher service of mankind ; and 
built colleges and halls in which he might be not only 
housed and fed, but taught. 

The Colleges were very generally placed in strict 


subordination to the University by their founders ; but, 
in many cases, their endowment, consisting of land, has 
undergone an "unearned increment/' which has given 
these societies a continually increasing weight and im- 
portance as against the unendowed, or fixedly endowed, 
University. In Pharaoh's dream, the seven lean kino 
eat up the seven fat ones. In the reality of historical 
fact, the fat Colleges have eaten up the lean Universities. 

Even here in Aberdeen, though the causes at work 
may have been somewhat different, the effects have been 
similar; and you see how much more substantial an 
entity is the Yery Eeverend the Principal, analogue, if 
not homologue, of the Principals of King's College, than 
the Rector, lineal representative of the ancient monarchs 
of the University, though now, little more than a " king 
of shreds and patches." 

Do not suppose that, in thus briefly tracing the pro- 
cess of University metamorphosis, I have had any inten- 
tion of quarrelling with its results. Practically, it seems 
to me that the broad changes eflcctcd in 1858 have given 
the Scottish Universities a very liberal constitution, with 
as much real approximation to the primitive state of 
things as is at all desirable. If your fat kino have oaten 
the lean, they have not lain down to chew tho cud over 
since. The Scottish Universities, like the English, have 
diverged widely enough from, their primitive model; 
but I cannot help thinking that tho northern form has 
remained more faithful to its original, not only in con- 
stitution, but, what is more to the purpose, in view of 


the cry for change, in the practical application of the 
endowments connected with it. 

In Aberdeen, these endowments are numerous, but 
so small that, taken altogether, they are not equal to 
the revenue of a single third-rate English college. They 
are scholarships, not fellowships; aids to do work not 
rewards for such work as it lies within the reach of an 
ordinary, or even an extraordinary, young man to do. 
You do not think that passing a respectable examination 
is a fair equivalent for an income, such as many a gray- 
headed veteran, or clergyman, would envy ; and which 
is larger than the endowment of many Eegius chairs. 
You do not care to make your University a school of 
manners for the rich; of sports for the athletic; or a 
hot-bed of high-fed, hypercritical refinement, more de- 
structive to vigour and originality than are starvation 
and oppression. No; your little Bursaries of ten and 
twenty (I believe even fifty) pounds a year, enable any 
boy who has shown ability in the course of his education 
in those remarkable primary schools, which have made 
Scotland the power she is, to obtain the highest culture 
the country can give him; and when, he is armed and 
equipped, his Spartan Alma Mater tells him that, so far, 
he has had his wages for his work, and that he may go 
and earn the rest. 

When I think of the host of pleasant, monied, well- 
bred young gentlemen, who do a little learning and 
much boating by Cam and Isis, the vision is a pleasant 
one ; and, as a patriot, I rejoice that the youth of the 


upper and richer classes of the nation receive a -whole- 
some and a manly training, however small may be the 
modicum of knowledge they gather, in the intervals of 
this, their serious business. I admit, to the full, the 
social and political value of that training. But, when 
I proceed to consider that these young men may be 
said to represent the great bulk of what the Colleges 
have to show for their enormous wealth, plus, at least, 
a hundred and fifty pounds a year apiece which each 
undergraduate costs his parents or guardians, I feel 
inclined to ask whether the rato-in-aid of the education 
of the wealthy and professional classes, thus levied on 
the resources of the community, is not, after all, a little 
heavy? And, still further, I am tempted to inquire 
what has become of the indigent scholars, the sons of 
the masses of the people whose daily labour just suffices 
to meet their daily wants, for whoso benefit these rich 
foundations were largely, if not mainly, instituted ? It 
seems as if Pharaoh's dream had been rigorously car- 
ried out, and that even the fat scholar has eaten the 
lean one. And when I turn from this picture to the 
no less real vision of many a bravo and frugal Scotch 
boy, spending his summer In hard manual labour, that 
he may have the privilege of Trending his way in au- 
tumn to this University, with a bag of oatmeal, ten 
pounds in his pocket, and his own stout heart to de- 
pend upon through the northern winter; not bent 'on 

" Tho Imbblo reputation at the cannon's moutli," 


but determined to wring knowledge from the hard hands 
of penury ; when I see him win through all such out- 
ward obstacles to positions of wide usefulness and well- 
earned fame ; I cannot but think that, in essence, Aber- 
deen has departed but little from the primitive intention 
of the founders of Universities, and that the spirit of 
reform has so much to do on the other side of the Bor- 
der, that it may be long before he has leisure to look 
this way. 

As compared with other actual Universities, then, 
Aberdeen, may, perhaps, be well satisfied with itself* 
But do not think me an impracticable dreamer, if I ask 
you not to rest and be thankful in this state of satisfac- 
tion ; if I ask you to consider awhile, how this actual 
good stands related to that ideal better, towards which 
both men and institutions must progress, if they would 
not retrograde. 

In an ideal University, as I conceive it, a man should 
be able to obtain instruction in all forms of knowledge, 
and discipline in the use of all the methods by which 
knowledge is obtained. In such an University, the force 
of living example should fire the student with a noble 
ambition to emulate the learning of learned men, and 
to follow in the footsteps of the explorers of new fields 
of Knowledge. And the very air he breathes should be 
charged with that enthusiasni for truth, that fanaticism 
of veracity, which is a greater possession than much 
learning ; a nobler gift than the power of increasing 
knowledge ; by so much greater and nobler than theses, 


as tlie moral nature of man is greater than tlie intellec- 
tual; for veracity is the heart of morality. 

But the man who is all morality and intellect, al- 
though he may be good and even great, is, after all, only 
half a man. There is beauty in the moral world and in 
the intellectual world ; but there is also a beauty which 
is neither moral nor intellectual the beauty of the 
world of Art. There are men who are devoid of the 
power of seeing it, as there are men who are born deaf 
and blind, and the loss of those, as of these, is simply 
infinite. There are others in whom it is an overpower- 
ing passion; happy men, born with the productive, or 
at lowest, the appreciative, genius of the Artist. But, 
in the mass of mankind, the JEsthetic faculty, like the 
reasoning power and the moral sense, needs to be roused, 
directed, and cultivated ; and I know not why the devel- 
opment of that side of Ills nature, through which man 
has access to a perennial spring of ennobling pleasure, 
should be omitted from any comprehensive scheme of 
University education. 

All Universities recognise Literature in the sense of 
the old Rhetoric, which is art incarnate in words. Some, 
to their credit, recognise Art in its narrower sense, to a 
certain extent, and confer degrees for proficiency in 
some of its branches. If there are Doctors of Music, 
why should there be no Masters of Painting, of Sculpture, 
of Architecture ? I should like to BOO Professors of the 
Fine Arts in every University ; and instruction in some 
branch of their work made a part of the Arts curriculum. 


I just now expressed the opinion that, in onr ideal 
University, a man should be able to obtain instruction 
in all forms of knowledge. Now, by " forms of knowl- 
edge " I mean the great classes of things knowable ; of 
which the first, in logical, though not in natural, order 
is knowledge relating to the scope and limits of the 
mental faculties of man ; a form of knowledge which, 
in its positive aspect, answers pretty much to Logic 
and part of Psychology, while, on its negative and criti- 
cal side, it corresponds with Metaphysics. 

A second class comprehends all that knowledge 
which relates to man's welfare, so far as it is determined 
by his own acts, or what we call his conduct. It answers 
to Moral and Keligious philosophy. Practically, it is 
the most directly valuable of all forms of knowledge, 
but speeulatiyely, it is limited and criticised by that 
which precedes and by that which follows it in my 
order of enumeration. 

A third class embraces knowledge of the phenomena 
of the Universe, as that which lies about the individual 
man : and of the rules which those phenomena are ob- 
served to follow in the order of their occurrence, which 
we term the laws of Nature. 

This is what ought to be called Natural Science, or 
Physiology, though those terms are hopelessly diverted 
from such a meaning ; and it includes all exact knowl- 
edge of natural fact, whether Mathematical, Physical, 
Biological, or Social. 

Kant has said that the ultimate object of all knowl- 



edge is to give replies to these three questions : What 
can I do \ "What ought I to do 2 What may I hope 
for? The forms of knowledge which I have enumer- 
ated, should furnish such replies as are within human 
reach, to the first and second of these questions. While 
to the third, perhaps the wisest answer is, "Do what you 
can to do what you ought, and leave hoping and fear- 
ing alone." 

If this be a jiist and an exhaustive classification of 
the forms of knowledge, no question as to their relative 
importance, or as to the superiority of one to the other, 
can "be seriously raised. 

On the face of the matter, it is absurd to ask whether 
it is more important to know the limits of one's powers; 
or the ends for which they ought to be exerted ; or the 
conditions under which they must bo exerted. One 
may as well inquire which of the terms of a llulo of 
Three sum one ought to know, in order to got a trust- 
worthy result. Practical life is such a sum, in which 
your duty multiplied into your capacity, and divided by 
your circumstances, gives you the fourth term in the 
proportion, which is yonr deserts, with great accuracy. 
All agree, I take it, that men ought to have these three 
kinds of knowledge. The so-called " conflict of studies " 
turns upon the question of how they may bct bo ob- 

The founders of Universities hold tho theory that the 
Scriptures and Aristotle taken, together, the latter being 
limited by the former, contained all knowledge worth 


having ; and that the business of philosophy was to in- 
terpret and co-ordinate these two. I imagine that in 
the twelfth century this was a very fair conclusion from 
known facts. Nowhere in the world, in those days, was 
there such an encyclopaedia of knowledge of all three 
classes, as is to be found in those writings. The scho- 
lastic philosophy is a wonderful monument of the pa- 
tience and ingenuity with which the human mind toiled 
to build up a logically consistent theory of the Universe, 
out of such materials. And that philosophy is by no 
means dead and buried, as many vainly suppose. On 
the contrary, numbers of men of no mean learning and 
accomplishment, and sometimes of rare power and sub- 
tlety of thought, hold by it as the best theory of things 
which has yet been stated. And, what is still more re- 
markable, men who speak the language of modern phi- 
losophy, nevertheless think the thoughts of the school- 
men. " The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands 
are the hands of Esau." Every day I hear "Cause," 
"Law," "Force," "Vitality," spoken of as entities, by 
people who can enjoy Swift's joke about the meat-roast- 
ing quality of the smoke-jack, and comfort themselves 
with the reflection that they are not even as those be- 
nighted schoolmen. 

Well, this great system had its day, and then it was 
sapped and mined by two influences. The first was the 
study of classical literature, which familiarised men with 
methods of philosophising ; with conceptions of the 
highest Good ; with ideas of the order of Nature ; with 


notions of Literary and Historical Criticism ; and, above 
all, with visions of Art, of a kind which not only would 
not fit into the scholastic scheme, but showed them a 
pre-Christian, and indeed altogether un-Christian world, 
of such grandeur and beauty that they ceased to think 
of any other. They were as men who had kissed the 
Fairy Queen, and wandering with her in the dim love- 
liness of the under-world, cared not to return to the 
familiar ways of home and fatherland, though they lay, 
at arm's length, overhead. Cardinals were more familiar 
with Virgil than with Isaiah ; and Popes laboured, with 
great success, to re-paganise Rome. 

The second influence was the slow, but sure, growth 
of the physical sciences. It was discovered that some 
results of speculative thought, of immense practical and 
theoretical importance, can be verified by observation; 
and are always true, however severely they may be 
tested. Here, at any rate, was knowledge, to the cer- 
tainty of which no authority could add, or take away, 
one jot or tittle, and to which the tradition of a thousand 
years was as insignificant as the hearsay of yesterday. 
To the scholastic system, the study of clasBical litera- 
ture might be inconvenient and distracting, but it was 
possible to hope that it could be kept within bounds. 
Physical science, on the other hand, was an irreconcilable 
enemy, to be excluded at all hazards. The College of 
Cardinals has not distinguished itself in Physics or Physi- 
ology; and no Pope has, as yet, set up public laboratories 
in the Vatican. 


People do not always formulate the beliefs on which, 
they act. The instinct of fear and dislike is quicker 
than the reasoning process; and I suspect that, taken 
in conjunction with some other causes, such instinctive 
aversion is at the bottom of the long exclusion of any 
serious discipline in the physical sciences from the gen- 
eral curriculum of Universities; while, on the other 
hand, classical literature has been gradually made the 
backbone of the Arts course. 

I am ashamed to repeat here what I have said else- 
where, in season and out of season, respecting the value 
of Science as knowledge and discipline. But the other 
day I met with some passages in the Address to another 
Scottish University, of a great thinker, recently lost to 
us, which express so fully, and yet so tersely, the truth 
in this matter, that I am fain to quote them : 

" To question all things ; never to turn away from 
any difficulty; to accept no doctrine either from ourselves 
or from other people without a rigid scrutiny by negative 
criticism ; letting no fallacy, or incoherence, or confusion 
of thought step by unperceived ; above all, to insist upon 
having the meaning of a word clearly understood before 
using it, and the meaning of a proposition before assent- 
ing to it ; these are the lessons we learn " from workers 
in Science. ""With all this vigorous management of 
the negative element, they inspire no scepticism about 
the reality of truth or indifference to its pursuit. The 
noblest enthusiasm, both for the search after truth and 
for applying it to its highest uses, pervades those writ- 


ers." "In cultivating, therefore," science as an essen- 
tial ingredient in education, "we are all the while lay- 
ing an admirable foundation for etldcal and philosophical 
culture." * 

The passages I have quoted were uttered by John 
Stuart Mill ; but you cannot hear inverted commas, and 
it is therefore right that I should add, without delay, 
that I have taken the liberty of substituting workers 
in science" for "ancient dialecticians," and "Science as 
an essential ingredient in education" for "the ancient 
languages as our best literary education." Mill did, in, 
fact, deliver a noble panegyric upon classical studies. 
I do not doubt its justice, nor presume to question its 
wisdom. But I venture to maintain that no wise or just 
judge, who has a knowledge of the facts, will hesitate to 
say that it applies with equal force to scientific training. 

But it is only fair to the Scottish Universities to 
point out that they have long understood the value of 
Science as a branch of general education. I observe, 
with the greatest satisfaction, that candidates for the 
degree of Master of Arts in this University arc required 
to have a knowledge, not only of Mental and Moral 
Philosophy, and of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy, 
but of Natural History, in addition to tho ordinary 
Latin and Greek course ; and that a candidate may take 
honours in these subjects and in Chemistry. 

I do not know what the requirements of your ex- 

* Inaugural Address delivered to the University of St. Andrews, Feb- 
ruary 1, 186Y, by J, S. Mill, Hector of tho University (pp. 82, 88), 


aminers may be, but I sincerely trust they are not satis- 
fied with a mere book knowledge of these matters. For 
niy own part, I would not raise a finger, if I could 
thereby introduce mere book work in science into every 
Arts curriculum in the country. Let those who want to 
study books devote themselves to Literature, in which 
we have the perfection of books, both as to substance 
and as to form. If I may paraphrase Hobbes's well- 
known aphorism, I would say that " books are the money 
of Literature, but only the counters of Science," Science 
(in the sense in which I now use the term) being the 
knowledge of fact, of which every verbal description is 
but an incomplete and symbolic expression. And be 
assured that no teaching of science is worth anything, 
as a mental discipline, which is not based upon direct 
perception of the facts, and practical exercise of the 
observing and logical faculties upon them. Even in 
such a simple matter as the mere comprehension of 
form, ask the most practised and widely informed anato- 
mist what is the difference between his knowledge of 
a structure which he has read about, and his knowledge 
of the same structure when he has seen it for himself ; 
and he will tell you that the two things are not com- 
parable the difference is infinite. Thus I am very 
strongly inclined to agree with some learned school- 
masters who say that, in their experience, the teaching 
of science is all waste time. As they teach it, I have 
no doubt it is. But to teach it otherwise, requires an 
amount of personal labour and a development of means 


and appliances, which must strike horror and dismay 
into a man accustomed to mere book work; and who 
has been in the habit of teaching a class of fifty without 
much strain upon his energies. And this is one of the 
real difficulties in the way of the introduction of phys- 
ical science into the ordinary University , course, to 
which I have alluded. It is a difficulty which will not 
be overcome, until years of patient study have organised 
scientific teaching as well as, or I hope better than, 
classical teachrng has been organised hitherto. 

A little while ago, 1 ventured to hint a doubt as to 
the perfection of some of the arrangements in the ancient 
Universities of England; but, in their provision for 
giving instruction in Science as such, and without direct 
reference to any of its practical applications, they have 
set a brilliant example. Within the last twenty years, 
Oxford alone has sunk more than a hundred and twenty 
thousand pounds in building and furnishing Physical, 
Chemical, and Physiological Laboratories, and a mag- 
nificent Museum, arranged with an almost luxurious re- 
gard for the needs of the student. Cambridge, less 
rich, but aided by the munificence " of her Chancellor, 
is taking the same course ; and, in a few years, it will 
be for no lack of the means and appliances of sound 
teaching, if the mass of English University men remain 
in their present state of barbarous ignorance of even tlio 
rudiments of scientific culture. 

Tet another step needs to be made before Science 
can be said to have taken its proper place in the Uxii- 


versities. That is its recognition as a Faculty, or branch 
of study demanding recognition and special organisation, 
on account of its bearing on the wants of mankind. 
The Faculties of Theology, Law, and Medicine, are 
technical schools, intended to equip men who have re- 
ceived general culture, with the special knowledge which 
is needed for the proper performance of the duties of 
clergymen, lawyers, and medical practitioners. 

"When the material well-being of the country de- 
pended upon rude pasture and agriculture, and still 
ruder mining ; in the days when all the innumerable 
applications of the principles of physical science to prac- 
tical purposes were non-existent even as dreams ; days 
which men living may have heard their fathers speak 
of; what little physical science could be seen to bear 
directly upon human life, lay within the province of 
Medicine. Medicine was the foster-mother of Chem- 
istry, because it has to do with the preparation of drugs 
and the detection of poisons ; of Botany, because it en- 
abled the physician to recognise medicinal herbs; of 
Comparative Anatomy and Physiology, because the man 
who studied Human Anatomy and Physiology for purely 
medical purposes was led to extend his studies to the rest 
of the animal world. 

"Within my recollection, the only way in which a 
student could obtain anything like a training in Phys- 
ical Science, was by attending the lectures of the Pro- 
fessors of Physical and Natural Science attached to the 
Medical Schools. But, in the course of the last thirty 


years, both foster-mother and child have grown so big, 
that they threaten not only to crush one another, but 
to pre& the very life out of the unhappy student who 
enters the nursery ; to the great detriment of all three. 

I speak in the presence of those who know practically 
what medical education is ; for I may assume that a 
large proportion of my hearers are more or less advanced 
students of medicine. I appeal to the most industrious 
and conscientious among you, to those who are most 
deeply penetrated with a sense of the extremely serious 
responsibilities which attach to the calling of a medical 
practitioner, when I ask whether, out of the four years 
which you devote to your studies, you ought to spare 
even so much as an hour for any work which docs not 
tend directly to fit you for your duties? 

Consider what that work is. Its foundation is a 
sound and practical acquaintance with the structure of 
the human organism, and with -the modes and conditions 
of its action in health. I say a sound and practical ac- 
quaintance, to guard against the supposition that my in- 
tention is to suggest that you ought all to bo minute 
anatomists and accomplished physiologists. The devo- 
tion of your whole four years to Anatomy and Physi- 
ology alone, would be totally insufficient to attain that 
end. What I mean is, the sort of practical, familiar, 
finger-end knowledge which a watchmaker has of a 
watch, and which you expect that craftsman, as an 
honest man, to have, when you entrust a watch that 
goes badly, to him. It is a kind of knowledge which 


is to be acquired,, not in the lecture-room, nor in the 
library, but in the dissecting-room and the laboratory. 
It is to be had, not by sharing your attention between 
these and sundry other subjects, but by concentrating 
your minds, week after week, and month after month, 
six or seven hours a day, upon all the complexities of 
organ and function, until each of the greater truths 
of anatomy and physiology has become an organic part 
of your minds until you would know them if you 
were roused and questioned in the middle of the night, 
as a man knows the geography of his native place and 
the daily life of his home. That is the sort of knowl- 
edge which, once obtained, is a life-long possession. 
Other occupations may fill your minds it may grow 
dim, and seem to be forgotten but there it is, like the 
inscription on a battered and defaced coin, which comes 
out when you warm it. 

If I had the power to remodel Medical Education, 
the first two years of the medical curriculum should be 
devoted to nothing but such thorough study of Anatomy 
and Physiology, with Physiological Chemistry and Phys- 
ics ; the student should then pass a real, practical exam- 
ination in these subjects ; and, having gone through that 
ordeal satisfactorily, he should be troubled no more with 
them. His whole mind should then be given with equal 
intentness, to Therapeutics, in its broadest sense, to 
Practical Medicine and to Surgery, with instruction in 
Hygiene and in Medical Jurisprudence; and of these 
subjects only surely there are enough of them should 


lie be required to show a knowledge in his final exam- 

I cannot claim any special property in this theory 
of what the medical curriculum should "be, for I find that 
views, more or less closely approximating these, are held 
by all who have seriously considered the very grave and 
pressing question of Medical Reform ; and have, indeed, 
been carried into practice, to some extent, by the most 
enlightened Examining Boards. I have heard but two 
kinds of objections to them. There is, first, the objec- 
tion of vested interests, which I will not deal with here, 
because I want to make myself as pleasant as I can, and 
no discussions are so unpleasant as those which turn on 
such points. And there is, secondly, the much more 
respectable objection, which takes the general form of 
the reproach that, in thus limiting the curriculum, we 
are seeking to narrow it. We are told that the medical 
man ought to be a person of good education and general 
information, if his profession is to hold its own among 
otter professions; that he ought to know Botany, or 
else, if he goes abroad, he will not be able to tell poison- 
ous fruits from edible ones ; that he ought to know 
drags, as a druggist knows them, or he will not bo able 
to tell sham bark and senna from the real articles ; that 
he ought to know Zoology, because well, I really liavo 
never been able to learn exactly why he is to be expected 
to know zoology. There is, indeed, a popular supersti- 
tion, that doctors know all about things that arc queer 
or nasty to the general mind, and may, therefore, bo 


reasonably expected to know the "barbarous binomials" 
applicable to snakes, snails, and slugs ; an. amount of 
information -with. which tlie general mind is usually com- 
pletely satisfied. And there is a scientific superstition 
that Physiology is largely aided by Comparative Anato- 
m y a superstition which, like most superstitions, once 
had a grain of truth at bottom; but the grain has be- 
come homoeopathic, since Physiology took its modern 
experimental development, and became what it is now, 
the application of the principles of Physics and Chemis- 
try to the elucidation of the phenomena of life. 

I hold as strongly as any one can do, that the medical 
practitioner ought to be a person of education and good 
general culture ; but I also hold by the old theory of a 
Faculty, that a man should have his general culture 
before he devotes himself to the special studies of that 
Faculty ; and I venture to maintain, that, if the general 
culture obtained in the Faculty of Arts were what it 
ought to be, the student would have quite as much 
knowledge of the fundamental principles of Physics, of 
Chemistry, and of Biology, as he needs, before he com- 
menced his special medical studies. 

Moreover, I would urge, that a thorough study of 
Human Physiology is, in itself, an education broader 
and more comprehensive than much that passes under 
that name. There is no side of the intellect which it 
does not call into play, no region of human knowledge 
into which either its roots; or its branches, do not extend ; 
like the Atlantic between the Old and the New Worlds, 


its waves wash the shores of the two worlds of matter 
and of mind; its tributary streams flow from "both; 
through its waters, as yet unfurrowed by the keel of any 
Columbus, lies the road, if such there be, from the one 
to the other ; far away from that North-west Passage of 
mere speculation, in which so many brave souls have 
been hopelessly frozen up. 

But whether I am right or wrong about all this, the 
patent fact of the limitation of time remains. As the 
song runs : 

" If a man could be sure 

That Ms life would endure 
For the space of a thousand long years " 

he might do a number of things not practicable under 
present conditions. Methuselah might, with much pro- 
priety, have taken half a century to get his doctor's 
degree; and might, very fairly, have been required to 
pass a practical examination upon the contents of the 
British Museum, before commencing practice as a prom- 
ising young fellow of two hundred, or thereabouts. But 
you have four years to do your work in, and are turned 
loose, to save or slay, at two or three and twenty. 

Now, I put it to you, whether you think that, when 
you come down to the realities of life when you stand 
by the sick-bed, racking your brains for the principles 
which shall furnish you with the means of interpreting 
symptoms, and forming a rational theory of the condi- 
tion of your patient, it will be satisfactory for you to 
find that those principles are not there although, to use 


the examination slang which is unf ortunately too famil- 
iar to me, yon can quite easily " give an account of the 
leading peculiarities of the Mwrswpialia" or " enumerate 
the chief characters of the Composite" or " state the 
class and order of the animal from which Oastoreum is 
obtained. 5 ' 

I really do not think that state of things will be sat- 
isfactory to you; I am very sure it will not be so to 
your patient. Indeed, I am so narrow-minded myself, 
that if I had to choose between two physicians one 
who did not know whether a whale is a fish or not, 
and could not tell gentian from ginger, but did under- 
stand the applications of the. institutes of medicine to 
his art ; while the other, like Talleyrand's doctor, " knew 
everything, even a little physic " with all my love for 
breadth of culture, I should assuredly consult the former. 

It is not pleasant to incur the suspicion of an incli- 
nation to injure or depreciate particular branches of 
knowledge. But the fact that one of those which I 
should have no hesitation in excluding from the medi- 
cal curriculum, is that to which my own life has been 
specially devoted, should, at any rate, defend me from 
the suspicion of being urged to this course by any but 
the very gravest considerations of the public welfare. 

And I should like, further, to call your attention to 
the important circumstance that, in thus proposing the 
exclusion of the study of such branches of knowledge 
as Zoology and Botany, from those compulsory upon the 
medical student, I am not, for a moment, suggesting 


their exclusion from the University. I think that 
sonnd and practical instruction in the elementary facts 
and broad principles of Biology should form part of the 
Arts Curriculum : and here, happily, my theory is in. 
entire accordance with your practice. Moreover, as I 
have already said, I have no sort of doubt that, in view 
of the relation of Physical Science to the practical life 
of the present day, it has the same right as Theology, 
Law, and Medicine, to a Faculty of its own in which 
men shall be trained to be professional men of science. 
It may be doubted whether Universities are the places 
for technical schools of Engineering, or Applied Chem- 
istry, or Agriculture. But there can surely be little 
question, that instruction in the branches of Science 
which lie at the foundation of these Arts, of a far more 
advanced and special character than could, with any 
propriety, be included in the ordinary Arts Curriculum, 
ought to be obtainable by means of a duly organised 
Faculty of Science in every University. 

The establishment of such a Faculty would liave the 
additional advantage of providing, in some measure, for 
one of the greatest wants of our time and country. 1 
mean the proper support and encouragement of origi- 
nal research. 

The other day, an emphatic friend of mine commit- 
ted himself to the opinion that, in England, it Is better 
for a man's worldly prospects to be a drunkard, than to 
be smitten with the divine dipsomania of the original 
investigator. I am inclined to think lie was not far 


wrong. And, be it observed, that tlie question is not, 
whether such, a man shall be able to make as much out 
of his abilities as his brother, of like ability, who goes 
into Law, or Engineering, or Commerce; it is not a 
question of u maintaining a due number of saddle horses, 33 
as George Eliot somewhere puts it it is a question of 
living or starving. 

If a student of my own subject shows power and 
originality, I dare not advise him to adopt a scientific 
career; for, supposing he is able to maintain himself 
until he has attained distinction, I cannot give him the 
assurance that any amount of proficiency in the Bio- 
logical Sciences will be convertible into, even the most 
modest, bread and cheese. And I believe that the case 
is as bad, or perhaps worse, with other branches of 
Science. In this respect Britain, whose immense wealth 
and prosperity hang upon the thread of Applied Science, 
is far behind France, and infinitely behind Germany. 

And the worst of it is, that it is very difficult to 
see one's way to any immediate remedy for this state 
of affairs which shall be free from a tendency to become 
worse than the disease. 

Great schemes for the Endowment of Research have 
been proposed. It has been suggested, that Laboratories 
for all branches of Physical Science, provided with 
every apparatus needed by the investigator, shall be es- 
tablished by the State : and shall be accessible, under 
due conditions and regulations, to all properly qualified 
persons. I see no objection to the principle of such 


a proposal. If it be legitimate to spend great sums of 
money on public Libraries and public collections of 
Painting and Sculpture, in aid of the man of letters, or 
the Artist, or for the mere sake of affording pleasure 
to the general public, I apprehend that it cannot be 
illegitimate to do as much for the promotion of scien- 
tific investigation. To take the lowest ground as a 
mere investment of money, the latter is likely to be 
much more immediately profitable. To my mind, the 
difficulty in the way of such schemes is not theoretical, 
but practical. Given the laboratories, how are the in- 
vestigators to be maintained? What career is open to 
those who have been thus encouraged to leave bread- 
winning pursuits ? If they are to be provided for by en- 
dowment, we come back to the College Fellowship sys- 
tem, the results of which, for Literature, have not been 
so brilliant that one would wish to see it extended to 
Science ; unless some much better securities, than at pres- 
ent exist, can be taken that it will foster real work. You 
know that among the Bees, it depends on tlie kind of 
cell in which the egg is deposited, and the quantity 
and quality of food which is supplied to the grub, 
whether it shall turn out a busy little worker or a big 
idle queen. And, in the human hive, the cells of the 
endowed larvae are always tending to enlarge, and their 
food to improve, until we get queens, beautiful to be- 
hold, but which gather no honey and build no comb. 

I do not say that these difficulties may not be over- 
come, but their gravity is not to be lightly estimated. 


In the meanwhile, there is one step in the direction 
of the endowment of research which is free from such 
objections. It is possible to place the scientific inquirer 
in a position in which he shall have ample leisure and 
opportunity for original work, and yet shall give a fair 
and tangible equivalent for those privileges. The estab- 
lishment of a Faculty of Science in every University, 
implies that of a corresponding number of Professorial 
chairs, the incumbents of which need not be so burdened 
with teaching as to deprive them of ample leisure for 
original work. I do not think that it is any impedi- 
ment to an original investigator to have to devote a 
moderate portion of his time to lecturing, or superin- 
tending practical instruction. On the contrary, I think 
it may be, and often is, a benefit to be obliged to take 
a comprehensive survey of your subject; or to bring 
your results to a point, and give them, as it were, a 
tangible objective existence. The besetting sins of the 
investigator are two : the one is the desire to put aside 
a subject, the general bearings of which he has mastered 
himself, and pass on to something which has the at- 
traction of novelty; and the other, the desire for too 
much perfection, which leads him to 

" Add and alter many times, 
Till all be ripe and rotten ; " 

to spend the energies which should be reserved for ac- 
tion, in whitening the decks and polishing the guns. 
The obligation to produce results for the instruction 


of others, seems to me to be a more effectual clieck on 
these tendencies, than even the love of usefulness or the 
ambition for fame. 

But supposing the Professorial forces of our Univer- 
sity to be duly organised, there remains an important 
question, relating to the teaching power, to be considered. 
Is the Professorial system the system, I mean, of teach- 
ing in the lecture-room alone, and leaving the student 
to find his own way when he is outside the lecture- 
room adequte to the wants of learners ? In answering 
this question, I confine myself to my own province, and 
I venture to reply for Physical Science, assuredly and 
undoubtedly, No. As I have already intimated, prac- 
tical work in the Laboratory is absolutely indispensable, 
and that practical work must be guided and 'superin- 
tended by a sufficient staff of Demonstrators, who are 
for Science what Tutors are for other branches of study. 
And there must be a good supply of sucli Demonstra- 
tors. I doubt if the practical work of more than twen- 
ty students can be properly superintended by one Dem- 
onstrator. If we take the working day at six hours, 
that is less than twenty minutes apiece not a very 
large allowance of time for helping a dull man, for 
correcting an inaccurate one, or even, for making an 
intelligent student clearly apprehend what ho is about. 
And, no doubt, the supplying of a proper amount of 
this tutorial, practical teaching, is a difficulty in the way 
of giving proper instruction in Physical Science in such 
Universities as that of Aberdeen, which are devoid of 


endowments ; and, unlike the English. Universities, have 
no moral claim on the funds of richly endowed bodies 
to supply their wants. 

Examination thorough, searching examination is an 
indispensable accompaniment of teaching ; but I am al- 
most inclined to commit myself to the very heterodox 
proposition that it is a necessary evil. I am a very old 
Examiner ? having, for some twenty years past, been oc- 
cupied with examinations on a considerable scale, of all 
sorts and conditions of men, and women too, from the 
boys and girls of elementary schools to the candidates 
for Honours and Fellowships in the Universities. I will 
not say that, in this case as in so many others, the ad- 
age, that familiarity breeds contempt, holds good ; but 
my admiration for the existing system of examination 
and its products, does not wax warmer as I see more of 
it. Examination, like fire, is a good servant, but a bad 
master; and there seems to me to be some danger of 
its becoming our master. I by no means stand alone in 
this opinion. Experienced friends of mine do not hesi- 
tate to say that students whose career they watch, ap- 
pear to them to become deteriorated by the constant 
effort to pass this or that examination, just as we hear 
of men's brains becoming affected by the daily necessity 
of catching a train. They work to pass, not to know ; 
and outraged Science takes her revenge. They do pass, 
and they don't know. I have passed sundry examina- 
tions in my time, not without credit, and I confess I 
am ashamed to think how very little real knowledge 


underlay the torrent of stuff which I was able to pour 
out on paper. In fact, that which examination, as or- 
dinarily conducted, tests, is simply a man's power of 
work under stimulus, and his capacity for rapidly and 
clearly producing that which, for the time, he has got 
into his mind. ]STow, these faculties are by no means 
to be despised. They are of great value in practical 
life, and are the making of many an advocate, and of 
many a so-called statesman. But in the pursuit of truth, 
scientific or other, they count for very little, unless they 
are supplemented by that long-continued, patient "in- 
tending of the rnind," as Newton phrased it, which 
makes very little show in Examinations. I imagine 
that an Examiner who knows his students personally, 
must not unfrequently have found himself in the posi- 
tion of finding A J s paper better than B's, though his 
own judgment tells him, quite clearly, that B is the man 
who has the larger share of genuine capacity. 

Again, there is a fallacy about Examiners. It is 
commonly supposed that any one who knows a subject 
is competent to teach it ; and no one seems to doubt 
that any one who knows a subject is competent to ex- 
amine in it. I believe both these opinions to be seri- 
ous mistakes : the latter, perhaps, the more serious of 
the two. In the first place, I do not believe that any 
one who is not, or has not been, a teacher is really 
qualified to examine advanced students. And in the 
second place, Examination is an Art, and a difficult one, 
which has to be learned like all other arts. 


Beginners always set too difficult questions partly 
because they are afraid of being suspected of igno- 
rance if they set easy ones, and partly from not under- 
standing their business. Suppose that you want to 
test the relative physical strength of a score of young 
men. You do not put a hundredweight down before 
them, and tell each to swing it round. If you do, 
half of them won't be able to lift it at all, and only 
one or two will be able to perform the task. You 
must give them half a hundredweight, and see how 
they manoeuvre that, if you want to form any esti- 
mate of the muscular strength of each. So, a prac- 
tised Examiner will seek for information respecting the 
mental vigour and training of candidates from the way 
in which they deal with questions easy enough to let 
reason, memory, and method have free play. 

No doubt, a great deal is to be done by the care- 
ful selection of Examiners, and by the copious intro- 
duction of practical work, to remove the evils insepa- 
rable from examination ; but, under the best of circum- 
stances, I believe that examination will remain but an 
imperfect test of knowledge, and a still more imperfect 
test of capacity, while it tells next to nothing about a 
man's power as an investigator. 

There is much to be said in favour of restricting 
the highest degrees in each Faculty, to those who have 
shown evidence of such original power, by prosecuting 
a research under the eye of the Professor in whose 
province it lies ; or, at any rate, under conditions which 


stall afford satisfactory proof that the work is theirs. 
The notion may sotpid revolutionary, but it is really 
very old; for, I take it, that it lies at the bottom of 
that presentation of a thesis by the candidate for a doc- 
torate, which has now, too often, become little better 
than a matter of form. 

Thus far, I have endeavoured to lay before you, in 
a too brief and imperfect manner, my views respecting 
the teaching half the Magistri and Regentes of the 
University of the Future. !Now let me turn to the 
learning half the Scholares. 

If the Universities are to be the sanctuaries of the 
highest culture of the country, those who would enter 
that sanctuary, must not come with unwashed hands. 
If the good seed is to yield its hundredfold harvest, it 
must not be scattered amidst the stones of ignorance, 
or the tares of undisciplined indolence and wantonness. 
On the contrary, the soil must have been carefully pre- 
pared, and the Professor should find that the opera- 
tions of clod-crushing, draining, and weeding, and even 
a good deal of planting, have been done by the School- 

That is exactly what the Professor does not find in 
any University in the three Kingdoms that I can hear 
of the reason of which state of things lies in the 
extremely faulty organisation of the majority of sec- 
ondary Schools. Students come to the Universities ill- 
prepared in classics and mathematics, not at all pre* 


pared in anything else ; and half their time is spent in 
learning that which they ought to have known when 
they came. 

I sometimes hear it said that the Scottish Universi- 
ties differ from the English, in being to a much greater 
extent places of comparatively elementary education for 
a younger class of students. But it would seem doubt- 
ful if any great difference of this kind really exists; 
for a high authority, himself Head of an English Col- 
lege, has solemnly affirmed that : " Elementary teaching 
of youths under twenty is now the only function per- 
formed by the University;" and that Colleges are 
" boarding schools in which the elements of the learned 
languages are taught to youth." * 

This is not the first time that I have quoted those 
remarkable assertions. I should like to engrave them 
in public view, for they have not been refuted; and 
I am convinced that if their import is once clearly 
apprehended, they will play no mean part when the 
question of University reorganisation, with a view to 
practical measures, comes on for discussion. You are 
not responsible for this anomalous state of affairs now ; 
but, as you pass into active life and acquire the polit- 
ical influence to which your education and your posi- 
tion should entitle you, you will become responsible for 
it, unless each in his sphere does his best to alter it, 
by insisting on the improvement of secondary Schools. 

* " Suggestions for Academical Organisation, with Especial Reference 
to Oxford." By the Hector of Lincoln. 


Tour present responsibility is of another, though 
not less serious, kind. Institutions do not make men, 
any more than organisation makes life; and even the 
ideal University we have been dreaming about will be 
but a superior piece of mechanism, unless each student 
strive after the ideal of the Scholar. And that, ideal, 
it seems to me, has never been better embodied than 
by the great Poet, who, though lapped in luxury, the 
favourite of a Court, and the idol of his countrymen, 
remained through all the length of his honoured years 
a Scholar in Art, in Science, and in. Life. 

" "Would' st shape a noble life ? Then cast 
No backward glances towards the past : 
And though somewhat be lost and gone, 
Yet do thou act as one new-born. 
"What each day needs, that shalt thou ask ; 
Each day will set its proper task. 
Give other's work just share of praise; 
Not of thine own the merits raise. 
Beware no fellow man thou hate : 
And so in G-od's hands leave thy fate." * 

* Goethe, Zahme JCewen, Vierte AUTwlwig. I should be glad to take 
credit for the close and vigorous English version; but it is my wife's, and 
not mine. 



ANY candid observer of the phenomena of modern 
society will readily admit that bores must be classed 
among the enemies of the human race; and a little 
consideration will probably lead him to the further ad- 
mission, that no species of that extensive genus of nox- 
ious creatures is more objectionable than the educational 
bore. Convinced as I am of the truth of this great 
social generalisation, it is not without a certain trepi- 
dation that I venture to address you on an educational 
topic. For, in the course of the last ten years, to go 
back no farther, I am afraid to say how often I have 
ventured to speak of education, from that given in the 
primary schools to that which is to be had in the uni- 
versities and medical colleges ; indeed, the only part of 
this wide region into which, as yet, I have not advent- 
ured is that into which I propose to intrude to-day. 

Thus, I cannot but be aware that I am dangerously 
near becoming the thing which all men fear and fly. 
But I have deliberately elected to nua the risk. For 
when you did me the honour to ask me to address 
you, an unexpected circumstance had led me to occupy 


myself seriously with the question of technical educa- 
tion; and I had acquired the conviction that there are 
few subjects respecting which it is more important for 
all classes of the community to have clear and just 
ideas than this; while, certainly, there is none which 
is more deserving of attention by the Working Men's 
Club and Institute Union. 

It is not for me to express an opinion whether the 
considerations, which I am about to submit to you, will 
be proved by experience to be just or not ; but I will 
do my best to make them clear. Among the many 
good things to be found in Lord Bacon's works, none 
is more full of wisdom than the saying that "truth 
more easily comes out of error than out of confusion." 
Clear and consecutive wrong-thinking is the next best 
thing to right-thinking; so that, if I succeed in clear- 
ing your ideas on this topic, I shall have wasted neither 
your time nor my own. 

"Technical education," in the sense in which the 
term is ordinarily used, and in which I am now em- 
ploying it, means that sort of education " which is spe- 
cially adapted to the needs of men whose business in 
life it is to pursue some kind of handicraft; it is, in 
fact, a fine Greco-Latin equivalent for what in good 
vernacular English would be called "the teaching of 
handicrafts." And probably, at this stage of our prog- 
ress, it may occur to many of you to think of the 
story of the cobbler and his last, and to say to your- 
selves, though you will be too polite to put the question 


openly to me. What does the speaker know practically 
about this matter? What is his handicraft? I think 
the question is a very proper one, and unless I were 
prepared to answer it, I hope satisfactorily, I should 
have chosen some other theme. 

The fact is, I am, and have been, any time these 
thirty years, a man who works with his hands a handi- 
craftsman. I do not say this in the broadly metaphor- 
ical sense in which fine gentlemen, with all the delicacy 
of Agag about them, trip to the hustings about elec- 
tion time, and protest that they too are working men. 
I really mean my words to be taken in their direct, 
literal, and straightforward sense. In fact, if the most 
nimble-fingered watchmaker among you will come to 
my workshop, he may set me to put a watch together, 
and I will set him to dissect, say, a blackbeetle's nerves. 
I do not wish to vaunt, but I am inclined to think that 
I shall manage my job to his satisfaction sooner than 
he will do his piece of work to mine. 

In truth, anatomy, which is my handicraft, is one 
of the most difficult kinds of mechanical labour, in- 
volving, as it does, not only lightness and dexterity of 
hand, but sharp eyes, and endless patience. And you 
must not suppose that my particular branch of science 
is especially distinguished for the demand it makes upon 
skill in manipulation. A similar requirement is made 
upon all students of physical science. The astronomer, 
the electrician, the chemist, the mineralogist, the bot- 
anist, are constantly called upon to perform manual 


operations of exceeding delicacy. The progress of all 
branches of physical science depends upon observation, 
or on that artificial observation which is termed experi- 
ment, of one kind or another; and, the farther we ad- 
vance, the more practical difficulties surround the inves- 
tigation of the conditions of the problems offered to 
us; so that mobile and yet steady hands, guided by 
clear vision, are more and more in request in the work- 
shops of science. 

Indeed, it has struck me that one of the grounds 
of that sympathy between the handicraftsmen of this 
country and the men of science, by which, it has so 
often been my good fortune, to profit, may, perhaps, 
lie here. You feel and we feel that, among the so- 
called learned folks, we alone are brought into contact 
with tangible facts in the way that you are. You know 
well enough that it is one thing to write a history of 
chairs in general, or to address a poem to a throne, or 
to speculate about the occult powers of the chair of 
St. Peter ; and quite another thing to make with, your 
own hands a veritable chair, that will stand fair and 
square, and afford a safe and satisfactory resting-place 
to a frame of sensitiveness and solidity. 

So it is with us, when we look out from our scien- 
tific handicrafts upon the doings of our learned brethren, 
whose work is untrammelled by anything "base and 
mechanical," as handicrafts used to be called when the 
world was younger, and, in some respects, less wise than 
now. "We take the greatest interest in their pursuits; 


we are edified "by their histories and are charmed with 
their poems, which, sometimes illustrate so remarkably 
the powers of man's imagination ; some of us admire 
and eyen humbly try to follow them in their high philo- 
sophical excursions, though we know the risk of being 
snubbed by the inquiry whether grovelling dissectors 
of monkeys and blackbeetles can hope to enter into the 
empyreal kingdom of speculation. But still we feel that 
our business is different ; humbler if you will, though the 
diminution of dignity is, perhaps, compensated by the 
increase of reality ; and that we, like you, hare to get 
our work done in a region where little avails, if the 
power of dealing with practical tangible facts is want- 
ing. Tou know that clever talk touching joinery will 
not make a chair; and I know that it is of about as 
much value in the physical sciences. Mother [Nature is 
serenely obdurate to honeyed words; only those who 
understand the ways of things, and can silently and 
effectually handle them, get any good out of her. 

And now, having, as I hope, justified my assumption 
of a place among handicraftsmen, and put myself right 
with you as to my qualification, from practical knowl- 
edge, to speak about technical education, I will proceed 
to lay before you the results of my experience as a 
teacher of a handicraft, and tell you what sort of edu- 
cation I should think best adapted for a boy whom one 
wanted to make a professional anatomist. 

I should say, in the first place, let him have a good 


English elementary education, I do not mean that lie 
shall be able to pass in such and such a standard that 
may or may not be an equivalent expression but that 
his teaching shall have been such as to have given him 
command of the common implements of learning and to 
have created a desire for the things of the understanding. 

Further, I should like him to know the elements of 
physical science, and especially of physics and chemistry, 
and I should take care that this elementary knowledge 
was real. I should like my aspirant to be able to read a 
scientific treatise in Latin, French, or German, because 
an enormous amount of anatomical knowledge is locked 
up in those languages. And especially, I should require 
some ability to draw I do not mean artistically, for 
that is a gift which may be cultivated but cannot be 
learned, but with fair accuracy. I will not say that 
everybody can learn even this ; for the negative devel- 
opment of the faculty of drawing in some people is 
almost miraculous. Still everybody, or almost every- 
body, can learn to write; and, as writing is a kind of 
drawing, I suppose that the majority of the people who 
say they cannot draw, and give copious evidence of the 
accuracy of their assertion, could draw, after a fashion, 
if they tried. And that "after a fashion" would be 
better than nothing for my purposes. 

Above all things, let my imaginary pupil have pre- 
served the freshness and vigour of youth in his mind as 
well as his body. The educational abomination of deso- 
lation of the present day is the stimulation of young 


people to work at liigli pressure by incessant competitive 
examinations. Some wise man (who probably was not 
an early riser) has said of early risers in general, that 
they are conceited all the forenoon and stupid all the 
afternoon. Now whether this is true of early risers in 
the common acceptation of the word or not, I will not 
pretend to say ; but it is too often true of the unhappy 
children who are forced to rise too early in their classes. 
They are conceited all the forenoon of life, and stupid 
all its afternoon. The yigour and freshness, which 
should have been stored up for the purposes of the hard 
struggle for existence in practical life, have been washed 
out of them by precocious mental debauchery by book 
gluttony and lesson bibbing. Their faculties are worn 
out by the strain put upon their callow brains, and they 
are demoralised by worthless childish triumphs before 
the real work of life begins. I have no compassion for 
sloth, but youth has more need for intellectual rest than 
age ; and the cheerfulness, the tenacity of purpose, the 
power of work which make many a successful man what 
he is, must often be placed to the credit, not of his hours 
of industry, but to that of his hours of idleness, in boy- 
hood. Even the hardest worker of us all, if he has to 
deal with anything above mere details, will do well, now 
and again, to let his brain lie fallow for a space. The 
next crop of thought will certainly be all the fuller in 
the ear and the weeds fewer. 

This is the sort of education which I should like any 
one who was going to devote himself to my handicraft 


to undergo. As to knowing anything about anatomy 
itself, on the whole I would rather he left that alone 
until he took it tip seriously in my laboratory. It is 
hard work enough to teach, and I should not like to 
have superadded to that the possible need of unteach- 


"Well, but, you will say, this is Hamlet with the 
Prince of Denmark left out; your "technical educa- 
tion" is simply a good education, with more attention to 
physical science, to drawing, and to modern languages, 
than is common, and there is nothing specially technical 
about it. 

Exactly so; that remark takes us straight to the 
heart of what I have to say ; which is, that, in my judg- 
ment, the preparatory education of the handicraftsman 
ought to have nothing of what is ordinarily understood 
by "technical" about it. 

The workshop is the only real school for a handicraft. 
The education which precedes that of the workshop 
should be entirely devoted to the strengthening of the 
body, the elevation of the moral faculties, and the culti- 
vation of the intelligence ; and, especially, to the im- 
buing the mind with a broad and clear view of the laws 
of that natural world with the components of which the 
handicraftsman will have to deal. And, the earlier the 
period of life at which the handicraftsman has to enter 
into actual practice of his craft, the more important is it 
that he should devote the precious hours of preliminary 
education to things of the mind, which have no direct 


and immediate bearing on Ms branch of industry, tliotigli 
they lie at tlie foundation of all realities. 

Now let me apply the lessons I have learned from 
my handicraft to yours. If any of you were obliged 
to take an apprentice, I suppose you would like to get a 
good healthy lad, ready and willing to learn, handy, and 
with his fingers not all thumbs, as the saying goes. You 
would like that he should read, write, and cipher well ; 
and, if you were an intelligent master, and your trade in- 
volved the application of scientific principles, as so many 
trades do, you would like him to know enough of the 
elementary principles of science to understand what was 
going on. I suppose that, in nine trades out of ten, it 
would be useful if he could draw; and many of you 
must haye lamented your inability to find out for your- 
selves what foreigners are doing or have done. So that 
some knowledge of French and German might, in many 
cases, be very desirable. 

So it appears to me that what you want is pretty 
much what I want ; and the practical question is, How 
you are to get what you need, under the actual limita- 
tions and conditions of life of handicraftsmen in this 

I think I shall have the assent both of the employ- 
ers of labour and of the employed as to one of these 
limitations; which is, that no scheme of technical edu- 
cation is likely to be seriously entertained which will 
delay the entrance of boys into working life, or prevent 


tliem from contributing towards their own support, as 
early as they do at present. Not only do I believe tliat 
any such scheme could not be carried out, but I doubt 
its desirableness, even if it were practicable. 

The period between childhood and manhood is full 
of difficulties and dangers, under the most favourable cir- 
cumstances ; and, even among the well-to-do, who can 
afford to surround their children with the most favour- 
able conditions, examples of a career ruined, before it 
has well begun, are but too frequent. Moreover, those 
who have to live by labour must be shaped to labour 
early. The colt that is left at grass too long makes but a 
sorry draught-horse, though his way of life does not bring 
him within the reach of artificial temptations. Perhaps 
the most valuable result of all education is the ability 
to make yourself do the thing you have to do 3 when 
it ought to be done, whether you like it or not ; it is 
the first lesson that ought to be learned ; and, however 
early a man's training begins, it is probably the last 
lesson that he learns thoroughly. 

There is another reason, to which I have already ad- 
verted, and which I would reiterate, why any extension 
of the time devoted to ordinary school-work is unde- 
sirable. In the newly awakened zeal for education, we 
run some risk of forgetting the truth, that while under- 
instruction is a bad thing, over-instruction, may possibly 
be a worse. 

Success in any kind of practical life is not depend- 
ent solely, or indeed chiefly, upon knowledge. Even 


in the learned professions, knowledge, alone, is of less 
consequence than people are apt to suppose. And, if 
nmch expenditure of bodily energy is involved in the 
day's work, mere knowledge is of still less importance 
when weighed against the probable cost of its acquire- 
ment. To do a fair day's work with his hands, a man 
needs, above all things, health, strength, and the patience 
and cheerfulness which, if they do not always accompany 
these blessings, can hardly in the nature of things exist 
without them; to which we must add honesty of pur- 
pose and a pride in doing what is done well. 

A good handicraftsman can get on very well with- 
out genius, but he will fare badly without a reasonable 
share of that which is a more useful possession for work- 
aday life, namely, mother-wit; and he will be all the 
better for a real knowledge, however limited, of the 
ordinary laws of nature, and especially of those which 
apply to his own business. 

Instruction carried so far as to help the scholar to 
turn his store of mother-wit to account, to acquire a fair 
amount of sound elementary knowledge, and to use his 
hands and eyes ; while leaving him fresh, vigorous, and 
with a sense of the dignity of his own calling, whatever 
it may be, if fairly and honestly pursued, cannot fail to 
be of invaluable service to all those who come under its 

But, on the other hand, if school instruction is carried 
so far as to encourage bookishness; if the ambition of 
the scholar is directed, not to the gaining of knowledge, 


but to the being able to pass examinations successfully ; 
especially if encouragement is given to the mischievous 
delusion that brainwork is, in itself, and apart from its 
quality, a nobler or more respectable thing than handi- 
work such education may be a deadly mischief to the 
workman, and lead to the rapid ruin of the industries 
it is intended to serve. 

I know that I am expressing the opinion of some 
of the largest as well as the most enlightened employ- 
ers of labour, when I say that there is a real danger 
that, from the extreme of no education, we may run 
to the other extreme of over-education of handicrafts- 
men. And I apprehend that what is true for the ordi- 
nary hand- worker is true for the foreman. Activity, 
probity, knowledge of men, ready mother-wit, supple- 
mented by a good knowledge of the general principles 
involved in his business, are the making of a good 
foreman. If he possess these qualities, no amount of 
learning will fit him better for his position; while 
the course of life and the habit of mind required for 
the attainment of such learning may, in various direct 
and indirect ways, act as direct disqualifications for it. 

Keeping in mind, then, that the two things to be 
avoided are, the delay of the entrance of boys into 
practical life, and the substitution of exhausted book- 
worms for shrewd, handy men, in our works and fac- 
tories, let us consider what may be wisely and safely 
attempted in the way of improving the education of 
lie handicraftsman. 


First, I look to the elementary schools now happily 
established all over the country. I am not going to 
criticise or find fault with them ; on the contrary, their 
establishment seems to me to be the most important 
and the most beneficial result of the corporate action 
of the people in our day. A great deal is said of 
British interests just now, but, depend upon it, that 
no Eastern difficulty needs our intervention as a nation 
so seriously, as the putting down both the Bashi-Ba- 
zouks of ignorance and the Cossacks of sectarianism 
at home. "What has already been achieved in these 
directions is a great thing; you must have lived some 
time to know how great. An education, better in its 
processes, better in its substance, than that which was 
accessible to the great majority of well-to-do Britons 
a quarter of a century ago, is now obtainable by every 
child in the land. Let any man of my age go into 
an ordinary elementary school, and, unless he was un- 
usually fortunate in his youth, he will tell you that 
the educational method, the intelligence, patience, and 
good temper on the teacher's part, which are now at 
the disposal of the veriest waifs and wastrels of society, 
are things of which he had no experience in those 
costly middle-class schools, which were so ingeniously 
contrived as to combine all the evils and shortcomings 
of the great public schools with none of their advan- 
tages. Many a man, whose so-called education cost a 
good deal of valuable money and occupied many a year 
of invaluable time, leaves the inspection of a well- 


but to the being able to pass examinations successfully ; 
especially if encouragement is given to the mischievous 
delusion tliat brainwork is, in itself, and apart from its 
quality, a nobler or more respectable thing than handi- 
worksuch education may be a deadly mischief to the 
workman, and lead to the rapid ruin of the industries 
it is intended to serve. 

I know that I am expressing the opinion of some 
of the largest as well as the most enlightened employ- 
ers of labour, when I say that there is a real danger 
that, from the extreme of no education, we may run 
to the other extreme of over-education of handicrafts- 
men. And I apprehend that what is true for the ordi- 
nary hand-worker is true for the foreman. Activity, 
probity, knowledge of men, ready mother-wit, supple- 
mented by a good knowledge of the general principles 
involved in his business, are the making of a good 
foreman. If he possess these qualities, no amount of 
learning will fit him better for his position; while 
the course of life and the habit of mind required for 
the attainment of such learning may, in various direct 
g,nd indirect ways, act as direct disqualifications for it. 

Keeping in mind, then, that the two things to be 
avoided are, the delay of the entrance of boys into 
practical life, and the substitution of exhausted book- 
worms for shrewd, handy men, in our works and fac- 
tories, let us consider what may be wisely and safely 
attempted in the way of improving the education of 
the handicraftsman. 


First, H look to the elementary schools now happily 
established all over the country. I am not going to 
criticise or find fault with them ; on the contrary, their 
establishment seems to me to be the most important 
and the most beneficial result of the corporate action 
of the people in our day. A great deal is said of 
British interests just now, but, depend upon it, that 
no Eastern difficulty needs our intervention as a nation 
so seriously, as the putting down both the Bashi-Ba- 
zouks of ignorance and the Cossacks of sectarianism 
at home. What has already been achieved in these 
directions is a great thing; you must have lived some 
time to know how great. An education, better in its 
processes, better in its substance, than that which was 
accessible to the great majority of well-to-do Britons 
a quarter of a century ago, is now obtainable by every 
child in the land. Let any man of my age go into 
an ordinary elementary school, and, unless he was un- 
usually fortunate in his youth, he will tell you that 
the educational method, the intelligence, patience, and 
good temper on the teacher's part, which are now at 
the disposal of the veriest waifs and wastrels of society, 
are things of which he had no experience in those 
costly middle-class schools, which were so ingeniously 
contrived as to combine all the evils and shortcomings 
of the great public schools with none of their advan- 
tages. Many a man, whose so-called education cost a 
good deal of valuable money and occupied many a year 
of invaluable time, leaves the inspection of a well- 


ordered elemeBtary school devoutly wishing that, in Ms 
young days, lie had had the chance of being as well 
taught as these boys and girls are. 

But while, in view of such an advance in general 
education, I willingly obey the natural impulse to be 
thanif ul, I am not willing altogether to rest. I want 
to see instruction in elementary science and in art more 
thoroughly incorporated in the educational system. At 
present, it is being administered by driblets, as if it 
were a potent medicine, "a few drops to be taken 
occasionally in a teaspoon." Every year I notice that 
that earnest and untiring friend of yours and of mine, 
Sir John Lubbock, stirs up the Government of the 
day in the House of Commons on this subject; and 
also that, every year, he, and the few members of the 
House of Commons, such as Mr. Playfair, who sympa- 
thise with him, are met with expressions of warm 
admiration for science in general, and reasons at large 
for doing nothing in particular. But now that Mr. 
Forster, to whom the education of the coimtry owes so 
much, has announced his conversion to the right faith, 
I begin to hope that, sooner or later, things will mend. 

I have given what I believe to be a good reason for 
the assumption, that the keeping at school of boys, 
who are to be handicraftsmen, beyond the age of thirteen 
or fourteen is neither practicable nor desirable; and, 
as it is quite certain, that, with justice to other and 
Ao less important branches of education, nothing more 
than the rudiments of science and art teaching can be 


introduced into elementary schools, we must seek else- 
where for a supplementary training in these subjects, 
and, if need be, in foreign languages, which may go 
on after the workman's life has begun. 

The means of acquiring the scientific and artistic 
part of this training already exists in full working order, 
in the first place, in the classes of the Science and Art 
Department, which are, for the most part, held in the 
evening, so as to be accessible to all who choose to 
avail themselves of them after working hours. The 
great advantage of these classes is that they bring the 
means of instruction to the doors of the factories and 
workshops; that they are no artificial creations, but 
by their very existence prove the desire of the people 
for them; and finally, that they admit of indefinite 
development in proportion as they are wanted. I have 
often expressed the opinion, and I repeat it here, that* 
during the eighteen years they have been in existence, 
these classes have done incalculable good ; and I can say, 
of my own knowledge, that the Department spares no 
pains and trouble in trying to increase their usefulness 
and ensure the soundness of their work. 

No one knows better than my friend Colonel Don- 
nelly, to whose clear views and great administrative 
abilities so much of the successful working of the science 
classes is due, that there is much to be done before the 
system can be said to be thoroughly satisfactory. The 
instruction given needs to be made more systematic and 
especially more practical; the teachers are of very un- 


equal excellence, and not a few stand much in need of 
instruction themselves, not only in the subjects which 
they teach, but in the objects for which they teach. I 
daresay you have heard of that proceeding, reprobated 
by all true sportsmen, which is called " shooting for the 
pot. 33 Well, there is such a thing as " teaching for the 
pot " teaching, that is, not that your scholar may know, 
but that he may count for payment among those who 
pass the examination ; and there are some teachers, hap- 
pily not many, who have yet to learn that the examiners 
of the Department regard them as poachers of the worst 

"Without presuming in any way to speak in the name 
of the Department, I think I may say, as a matter which 
has come under my own observation, that it is doing its 
best to meet all these difficulties. It systematically pro- 
motes practical instruction in the classes; it affords 
facilities to teachers who desire to learn their business 
thoroughly ; and it is always ready to aid in the suppres- 
sion of pot-teaching. 

All this is, as you may imagine, highly satisfactory 
to me. I see that spread of scientific education, about 
which I have so often permitted myself to worry the 
public, become, for all practical purposes, an accom- 
plished fact. Grateful as I am for all that is now being 
done, in the same direction, in our higher schools and 
universities, I have ceased to have any anxiety about the 
wealthier classes. Scientific knowledge is spreading by 
what the alchemists called a " distillatio per ascensum ; " 


and nothing now can prevent it from continuing to distil 
upwards and permeate English society, until, in the 
remote future, there shall be no member of the legis- 
lature who does not know as much of science as an 
elementary school-boy ; and even the heads of houses in 
our venerable seats of learning shall acknowledge that 
natural science is not merely a sort of University back- 
door through which inferior men may get at their de- 
grees. Perhaps this apocalyptic vision is a little wild ; 
and I feel I ought to ask pardon for an outbreak of 
enthusiasm, which, I assure you, is not my commonest 

I have said that the Government is already doing 
a great deal in aid of that kind of technical education for 
handicraftsmen which, to my mind, is alone worth seek- 
ing. Perhaps it is doing as much as it ought to do, even 
in this direction. Certainly there is another kind of help 
of the most important character, for which we may look 
elsewhere than to the Government. The great mass of 
mankind have neither the liking, nor the aptitude, for 
either literary, or scientific, or artistic pursuits; nor, 
indeed, for excellence of any sort. Their ambition is to 
go through life with moderate exertion and a fair share 
of ease, doing common things in a common way. And a 
great blessing and comfort it is that the majority of men 
are of this mind ; for the majority of things to be done 
are common things, and are quite well enough done 
when, commonly done. The great end of life is not 
knowledge but action. What men need is, as much 


knowledge as they can assimilate and organise into a 
basis for action ; give them more and it may become 
injurious. One knows people who are as heavy and 
stupid from undigested learning as others are from over- 
fulness of meat and drink. But a small percentage of 
the population is born with that most excellent quality, a 
desire for excellence, or with special aptitudes of some 
sort or another ; Mr. Galton tells us that not more than 
one in four thousand may be expected to attain distinc- 
tion, and not more than one in a million some share of 
that intensity of instinctive aptitude, that burning thirst 
for excellence, which is called genius. 

Now, the most important object of all educational 
schemes is to catch these exceptional people, and turn 
them to account for the good of society. No man can 
say where they will crop up ; like their opposites, the 
fools and knaves, they appear sometimes in the palace, 
and sometimes in the hovel ; but the great thing to be 
aimed at, I was almost going to say the most important 
end of all social arrangements, is to keep these glorious 
sports of Nature from being either corrupted by luxury 
or starved by poverty, and to put them into the position 
in which they can do the work for which they are spe- 
cially fitted. 

Thus, if a lad in an elementary school showed signs 
of special capacity, I would try to provide him with the 
means of continuing his education after his daily work- 
ing life had begun ; if, in the evening classes, he devel- 
oped special capabilities in the direction of science or of 


drawing, I would try to secure him an apprenticeship to 
some trade in which those powers would have applica- 
bility. Or, if he chose to become a teacher, he should 
have the chance of so doing. Finally, to the lad of 
genius, the one in a million, I would make accessible the 
highest and most complete training the country could 
afford. "Whatever that might cost, depend upon it the 
investment would be a good one. I weigh my words 
when I say that if the nation could purchase a potential 
"Watt, or Davy, or Paraday, at the cost of a hundred 
thousand pounds down, he would be dirt-cheap at the 
money. It is a mere commonplace and everyday piece 
of knowledge, that what these three men did has pro- 
duced untold millions of wealth, in the narrowest eco- 
nomical sense of the word. 

Therefore, as the sum and crown of what is to be 
done for technical education, I look to the provision of 
a machinery for winnowing out the capacities and giving 
them scope. "When I was a member of the London 
School Board, I said, in the course of a speech, that our 
business was to provide a ladder, reaching from the 
gutter to the university, along which every child in the 
three kingdoms should have the chance of climbing as far 
as he was fit to go. This phrase was so much bandied 
about at the time, that, to say truth, I am rather tired 
of it ; but I know of no other which so fully expresses 
my belief, not only about education in general, but about 
technical education in particular. 

The essential foundation of all the organisation 


knowledge as they can assimilate and organise into a 
basis for action ; give them more and it may become 
injurious. One knows people who are as heavy and 
stupid from undigested learning as others are from over- 
fulness of meat and drink. But a small percentage of 
the population is born with that most excellent quality, a 
desire for excellence 3 or with special aptitudes of some 
sort or another ; Mr. Galton tells us that not more than 
one in four thousand may be expected to attain distinc- 
tion, and not more than one in a million some share of 
that intensity of instinctive aptitude, that burning thirst 
for excellence, which is called genius. 

Now, the most important object of all educational 
schemes is to catch these exceptional people, and turn 
them to account for the good of society. No man can 
say where they will crop up ; like their opposites, the 
fools and knaves, they appear sometimes in the palace, 
and sometimes in the hovel ; but the great thing to be 
aimed at, I was almost going to say the most important 
end of all social arrangements, is to keep these glorious 
sports of Nature from being either corrupted by luxury 
or starved by poverty, and to put them into the position 
in which they can do the work for which they are spe- 
cially fitted. 

Thus, if a lad in an elementary school showed signs 
of special capacity, I would try to provide him with the 
means of continuing his education after his daily work- 
ing life had begun ; if, in the evening classes, lie devel- 
oped special capabilities in the direction of science or of 


drawing, I would try to secure him an apprenticeship to 
some trade in which those powers would have applica- 
bility. Or, if he chose to become a teacher, he should 
hare the chance of so doing. Finally, to the lad of 
genius, the one in a million, I would make accessible the 
highest and most complete training the country could 
afford. Whatever that might cost, depend upon it the 
investment would be a good one. I weigh my words 
when I say that if the nation could purchase a potential 
"Watt, or Davy, or Faraday, at the cost of a hundred 
thousand pounds down, he would be dirt-cheap at the 
money. It is a mere commonplace and everyday piece 
of knowledge, that what these three men did has pro- 
duced untold millions of wealth, in the narrowest eco- 
nomical sense of the word. 

Therefore, as the sum and crown of what is to be 
done for technical education, I look to the provision of 
a machinery for winnowing out the capacities and giving 
them scope. When I was a member of the London 
School Board, I said, in the course of a speech, that our 
business was to provide a ladder, reaching from the 
gutter to the university, along which every child in the 
three kingdoms should have the chance of climbiDg as far 
as he was fit to go. This phrase was so much bandied 
about at the time, that, to say truth, I am rather tired 
of it ; but I know of no other which so fully expresses 
my belief, not only about education in general, but about 
technical education in particular. 

The essential foundation of all the organisation 


needed for the promotion of education among handi- 
craftsmen will, I believe, exist in this country, when 
every working lad can feel that society has done as much 
as lies in its power to remove all needless and artificial 
obstacles from his path ; that there is no barrier, except 
such as exists in the nature of things, between himself 
and whatever place in the social organisation he is fitted 
to fill ; and, more than this, that, if he has capacity and 
industry, a hand is held out to help him along any path 
which is wisely and honestly chosen. 

I have endeavoured to point out to you that a great 
deal of such an organisation already exists; and I am 
glad to be able to add that there is a good prospect that 
what is wanted will, before long, be supplemented. 

Those powerful and wealthy societies, the livery 
companies of the City of London, remembering that 
they are the heirs and representatives of the trade guilds 
of the Middle Ages, are interesting themselves in the 
question. So far back as 1872 the Society of Arts 
organised a system of instruction in the technology of 
arts and manufactures, for persons actually employed in 
factories and workshops, who desired to extend and im- 
prove their knowledge of the theory and practice of 
their particular avocations ; * and a considerable subsidy, 
in aid of the efforts of the Society, was liberally granted 
by the Clothworkers' Company. "We have here the 
hopeful commencement of a rational organisation for the 

*See the "Programme" for 18T8, issued by the Society of Arts, 
p. 14. 


promotion of excellence among handicraftsmen. Quite 
recently, other of the livery companies have determined 
upon giving their powerful, and, indeed, almost bound- 
less, aid to the improvement of the teaching of handi- 
crafts. They have already gone so far as to appoint a 
committee to act for them ; and I betray no confidence 
in adding that, some time since, the committee sought 
the advice and assistance of several persons, myself 
among the number. 

Of course I cannot tell you what may be the result 
of the deliberations of the committee ; but we may all 
fairly hope that, before long, steps which will have a 
weighty and a lasting influence on the growth and 
spread of sound and thorough teaching among the handi- 
craftsmen* of this country will be taken by the livery 
companies of London. 

[This hope lias been fully justified by the establishment of the 
Cowper Street Schools, and that of the Central Institution of 
the City and Guilds of London Institute. September 1881J 

* It is perhaps advisable to remark that the important question of 
the professional education of managers of industrial works is not 
touched in the foregoing remarks. 



THE chief ground upon which I venture to recom- 
mend that the teaching of elementary physiology should 
form an essential part of any organised course of in- 
struction in matters pertaining to domestic economy, is, 
that a knowledge of even the elements of this subject 
supplies those conceptions of the constitution and mode 
of action of the living body, and of the nature of health 
and disease, which prepare the mind to receive instruc- 
tion from sanitary science. 

It is, I think, eminently desirable that the hygienist 
and the physician should find something in the public 
mind to which they can appeal; some little stock of 
universally acknowledged truths, which may serve as a 
foundation for their warnings, and predispose towards 
an intelligent obedience to their recommendations. 

Listening to ordinary talk about health, disease, and 
death, one is often led to entertain a doubt whether the 
speakers believe that the course of natural causation 
runs as smoothly in the human body as elsewhere. In- 
dications are too often obvious of a strong, though per- 


liaps an unavowed and half unconscious, undercurrent 
of opinion that the phenomena of life are not only 
widely different, in their superficial characters and in 
their practical importance, from other natural events, 
but that they do not follow in that definite order which 
characterises the succession of all other occurrences, and 
the statement of which we call a law of nature. 

Hence, I think, arises the want of heartiness of be- 
lief in the value of knowledge respecting the laws of 
health, and disease, and of the foresight and care to 
which, knowledge is the essential preliminary, which is 
so often noticeable; and a corresponding laxity and 
carelessness in practice, the results of which are too fre- 
quently lamentable. 

It is said that among the many religious sects of 
Kussia, there is one which holds that all disease is brought 
about by the direct and special interference of the Deity, 
and which, therefore, looks with repugnance upon both 
preventive and curative measures as alike blasphemous 
interferences with the will of God. Among ourselves, 
the "Peculiar People" are, I believe, the only persons 
who bold the like doctrine in its integrity, and carry it 
out with logical rigour. But many of us are old enough 
to recollect that the administration of chloroform in as^ 
suagement of the pangs of childbirth was, at its intro- 
duction, strenuously resisted upon similar grounds. 

I am not sure that the feeling, of which the doctrine 
to which I have referred is the full expression, does not 
lie at the bottom of the minds of a great many people 



who yet would vigorously object to give a verbal as- 
sent to the doctrine itself. However this may be, the 
main point is that sufficient knowledge has now been, 
acquired of vital phenomena, to justify the assertion, 
that the notion, that there is anything exceptional about 
these phenomena, receives not a particle of support from 
any known fact. On the contrary, there is a vast and 
an increasing mass of evidence that birth and death, 
health and disease, are as much parts of the ordinary 
stream of events as the rising and setting of the sun, 
or the changes of the moon ; and that the living body 
is a mechanism, the proper working of which we term 
health; its disturbance, disease; its stoppage, death. 
The activity of this mechanism is dependent upon many 
and complicated conditions, some of which arc hope- 
lessly beyond our control, while others are readily ac- 
cessible, and are capable of being indefinitely modified 
by our own actions. The business of the hygienist and 
of the physician is to know the range of these modifi- 
able conditions, and how to influence them towards the 
maintenance of health and the prolongation of Kfe ; the 
business of the general public is to give an intelligent 
assent, and a ready obedience based upon that assent, to 
the rules laid down for their guidance by such experts. 
But an intelligent assent is an assent based upon knowl- 
edge, and the knowledge which is here in question 
means an acquaintance with the elements of physiology. 
It is not difficult to acquire such knowledge. What 
is true, to a certain extent, of all the physical sciences, 


is eminently characteristic of physiology the difficulty 
of the subject begins beyond the stage of elementary 
knowledge, and increases with every stage of progress. 
While the most highly trained and the best furnished 
intellect may find all its resources insufficient, when it 
strives to reach the heights and penetrate into the depths 
of the problems of physiology, the elementary and fun- 
damental truths can be made clear to a child. 

ISTo one can have any difficulty in comprehending 
the mechanism of circulation or respiration ; or the gen- 
eral mode of operation of the organ of vision ; though 
the unravelling of all the minutiae of these processes, 
may, for the present, baffle the conjoined attacks of the 
most accomplished physicists, chemists, and mathema- 
ticians. To know the anatomy of the human body, 
with even an approximation to thoroughness, is the work 
of a life; but as much as is needed for a sound com- 
prehension of elementary physiological truths, may be 
learned in a week. 

A knowledge of the elements of physiology is not 
only easy of acquirement, but it may be made a real 
and practical acquaintance with the facts, as far as it 
goes. The subject of study is always at hand, in one- 
self. The principal constituents of the skeleton, and 
the changes of form of contracting muscles, may be felt 
through one's own skin. The beating of one^s heart, 
and its connection with the pulse, may be noted; the 
influence of the valves of one's own veins may be 
shown ; the movements of respiration may be observed ; 


while the wonderful phenomena of sensation afford an 
endless field for curious and interesting self-study. The 
prick of a needle will yield, in a drop of one's own 
blood, material for microscopic observation of phenom- 
ena which lie at the foundation of all biological concep- 
tions; and a cold, with its concomitant coughing and 
sneezing, may prove the sweet uses of adversity by 
helping one to a clear conception of what is meant by 
"reflex action. 53 

Of course there is a limit to this physiological self- 
examination. But there is so close a solidarity between 
ourselves and our poor relations of the animal world, 
that our inaccessible inward parts may be supplemented 
by theirs. A comparative anatomist knows that a sheep's 
heart and lungs, or eye, must not be confounded with 
those of a man ; but, so far as the comprehension of 
the elementary facts of the physiology of circulation, of 
respiration, and of vision goes, the ono furnishes the 
needful anatomical data as well as the other. 

Thus, it is quite possible to give instruction in ele- 
mentary physiology in such a manner as, not only to 
confer knowledge, which, for the reason I have men- 
tioned, is useful in itself ; but to serve the purposes of 
a training in accurate observation, and in the methods 
of reasoning of physical science. But that is an advan- 
tage which I mention only incidentally, as the present 
Conference does not deal with education in the ordi- 
nary sense of the word. 

It will not be suspected that I wish to make phys- 


iologists of all the world. It would be as reasonable 
to accuse an advocate of the "three B's" of a desire 
to make an orator, an author, and a mathematician of 
everybody. A stumbling reader, a pot-hook writer, and 
an arithmetician who has not got beyond the rule of 
three, is not a person of brilliant acquirements ; but the 
difference between such a member of society and one 
who can neither read, write, nor cipher is almost inex- 
pressible; and no one now-a-days doubts the value of 
instruction, even if it goes no farther. 

The saying that a little knowledge is a dangerous 
thing is, to my mind, a very dangerous adage. If 
knowledge is real and genuine, I do not believe that it 
is other than a very valuable possession, however infini- 
tesimal its quantity may be. Indeed, if a little knowl- 
edge is dangerous, where is the man who has so much 
as to be out of danger? 

If "William Harvey's life-long labours had revealed to 
him a tenth part of that which may be made sound 
and real knowledge to our boys and girls, he would not 
only have been what he was, the greatest physiologist 
of his age, but he would have loomed upon the seven- 
teenth century as a sort of intellectual portent. Our 
"little knowledge" would have been to him a great, 
astounding, unlooked-for vision of scientific truth. 

I really see no harm which can come of giving our 
children a little knowledge of physiology. But then, 
as I have said, the instruction must be real, based upon 
observation, eked out by good explanatory diagrams 


and models, and conveyed "by a teacher whose own 
knowledge has been acquired by a study of the facts ; 
and not the mere catechismal parrot-work which too 
often usurps the place of elementary teaching. 

It is, I hope, unnecessary for me to give a formal 
contradiction to the silly fiction, which is assiduously 
circulated by fanatics who not only ought to know, but 
do know, that their assertions are untrue, that I have 
advocated the introduction of that experimental disci- 
pline which is absolutely indispensable to the professed 
physiologist, into elementary teaching. 

But while I should object to any experimentation 
which can justly be called painful, for the purpose of 
elementary instruction; and, while, as a member of a 
late Koyal Commission, I gladly did my best to prevent 
the infliction of needless pain, for any purpose ; I think 
it is my duty to take this opportunity of expressing my 
regret at a condition of the law which permits a boy to 
troll for pike, or set lines with live frog bait, for idle 
amusement; and, at the same time, lays the teacher of 
that boy open to the penalty of fine and imprisonment, 
if he uses the same animal for the purpose of exhibit- 
ing one of the most beautiful and instructive of physio- 
logical spectacles, the circulation in the web of the foot. 
No one could undertake to affirm that a frog is not in- 
convenienced by being wrapped up in a wet rag, and 
having his toes tied out ; and it cannot be denied that 
inconvenience is a sort of pain. But you must not in- 
flict $ie least pain on a vertebrated animal for scientific 


purposes (though you may do a good deal in that way 
for gam or for sport) without due licence of the Secre- 
tary of State for the Home Department, granted under 
the authority of the Yivisection Act. 

So it comes about, that, in this present year of grace 
1877, two persons may be charged with cruelty to ani- 
mals. One has impaled a frog, and suffered the creat- 
ure to writhe about in that condition for hours; the 
other has pained the animal no more than one of us 
would be pained by tying strings round his fingers, and 
keeping him in the position of a hydropathic patient. 
The first offender says, " I did it because I find fishing 
very amusing," and the magistrate bids him depart in 
peace ; nay, probably wishes him good sport. The sec- 
ond pleads, " I wanted to impress a scientific truth, with 
a distinctness attainable in no other way, on the minds of 
my scholars," and the magistrate fines him five pounds. 

I cannot but think that this is an anomalous and 
not wholly creditable state of things. 


IF the man to perpetuate whose memory we have 
this day raised a statue had been asked on what part 
of his busy life's work he set the highest value, he would 
undoubtedly have pointed to his voluminous contribu- 
tions to theology. In season and out of season, he was 
the steadfast champion of that hypothesis respecting the 
Divine nature which is termed Unitarianism by its 
friends and Socinianism by its foes. Eegardless of odds, 
he was ready to do battle with all comers in that cause ; 
and if no adversaries entered the lists, he would sally 
forth to seek them. 

To this, his highest ideal of duty, Joseph Priestley 
sacrificed the vulgar prizes of life, which, assuredly, were 
within easy reach of a man of his singular energy and 
varied abilities. For this object, he put aside, as of sep- 
ondary importance, those scientific investigations which 
he loved so well, and in which he showed himself so 
competent to enlarge the boundaries of natural knowl- 
edge and to win fame. In this cause, he not only cheer- 
fully suffered obloquy from the bigoted and the unthink- 
ing, and came within sight of martyrdom ; but bore with 


that which is mucla harder to be borne tlian all these, tlie 
unfeigned astonishment and hardly disguised contempt 
of a brilliant society, composed of men whose sympathy 
and esteem must have been most dear to him, and to 
whom it was simply incomprehensible that a philoso- 
pher should seriously occupy himself with any form of 

It appears to me that the man who, setting before 
himself such an ideal of life, acted up to it consistently, 
is worthy of the deepest respect, whatever opinion may 
be entertained as to the real value of the tenets which 
he so zealously propagated and defended. 

But I am sure that I speak not only for myself, but 
for all this assemblage, when I say that our purpose 
to-day is to do honour, not to Priestley, the Unitarian 
divine, but to Priestley, the fearless defender of rational 
freedom in thought and in action : to Priestley, the phil : 
osophie thinker ; to that^ Priestley who held a foremost 
place among " the swift runners who hand over the lamp 
of life," * and transmit from one generation to another 
the fire kindled, in the childhood of the world, at the 
Promethean altar of Science. 

The main incidents of Priestley's life are so well 
known that I need dwell upon them at no great length. 

Born in 1733, at Fieldhead, near Leeds, and brought 
up among Oalvinists of the straitest orthodoxy, the boy's 

* " Quasi cursores, vital lampada tradont." LUCE. De Rerwn 

ii. V8. 


striking natural ability led to his being devoted to the 
profession of a minister of religion; and, in 1752, he 
was sent to the Dissenting Academy at Daventry an 
institution which authority left undisturbed, though its 
existence contravened the law. The teachers under 
whose instruction and influence the young man came 
at Daventry, carried out to the letter the injunction to 
" try all things : hold fast that which is good, 33 and en- 
couraged the discussion of every imaginable proposition 
with complete freedom, the leading professors taking 
opposite sides ; a discipline which, admirable as it may 
be from a purely scientific point of view, would seem 
to be calculated to make acute, rather than sound, di- 
vines. Priestley tells us, in his " Autobiography," that 
he generally found himself on the unorthodox side : and, 
as he grew older, and his faculties attained their ma- 
turity, this native tendency towards heterodoxy grew 
with his growth and strengthened with his strength. 
He passed from Calvinism to Arianism ; and finally, in 
middle life, landed in that very broad form of Unita- 
rianism, by which his craving after a credible and con- 
sistent theory of things was satisfied. 

On leaving Daventry, Priestley became minister of 
a congregation, first at Needham Market, and secondly 
at Nantwich ; but whether on account of his heterodox 
opinions, or of the stuttering which impeded his expres- 
sion of them in the pulpit, little success attended Ms 
efforts in this capacity. In 1761, a career much more 
suited to his abilities became open to him. He was 


appointed "tutor in tlie languages" in the Dissenting 
Academy at Warrington, In which capacity, besides giv- 
ing three courses of lectures, he taught Latin, Greek, 
French, and Italian, and read lectures on the Theory 
of Language and Universal Grammar, on Oratory, Phil- 
osophical Criticism, and Civil law. And it is interest- 
ing to observe that, as a teacher, he encouraged and 
cherished in those whom he instructed, the freedom 
which he had enjoyed, in his own student days, at Dav- 
entry. One of his pupils tells us that, 

"At the conclusion of his lecture, he always encouraged his stu- 
dents to express their sentiments relative to the subject of it, and 
to urge any objections to what he had delivered, without reserve. 
It pleased him when any one commenced such a conversation. In 
order to excite the freest discussion, he occasionally invited the 
students to drink tea with him, in order to canvass the subjects of 
his lectures. I do not recollect that he ever showed the least dis- 
pleasure at the strongest objections that were made to what he de- 
livered, but I distinctly remember the smile of approbation with 
which he usually received them ; nor did he fail to point out, in a 
very encouraging manner, the ingenuity or force of any remarks 
that were made, when they merited these characters. His object, 
as well as Dr. Aikin's, was to engage the students to examine and 
decide for themselves, uninfluenced by the sentiments of any other 
persons." * 

It would be difficult to give a better description of a 
model teacher than that conveyed in tliese words. 

From his earliest days, Priestley had shown a strong 
bent towards the study of nature ; and his brother 
Timothy tells us that the boy put spiders into bottles, 
to see how long they would live in the same air a 

* "Life and Correspondence of Dr. Priestley," by J. T. Rutt, Yol. i. 
p. 50. 


curious anticipation of the investigations of Ms later 
years. At ISTantwich, where he set up a school, Priestley 
informs us that he bought an air pump, an electrical 
machine, and other instruments, in the use of which 
he instructed his scholars. But he does not seem to 
have devoted himself seriously to physical science until 
1766, when he had the great good fortune to meet Ben- 
jamin Franklin, whose friendship he ever afterwards 
enjoyed. Encouraged by Franklin, he wrote a "His- 
tory of Electricity, 33 which was published in 1767, and 
appears to have met with considerable success. 

In the same year, Priestley left "Warrington to be- 
come the minister of a congregation at Leeds; and, 
here, happening to live next door to a public brewery, 
as he says, 

" I, at first, amused myself with making experiments on the fixed 
air which I found ready-made in the process of fermentation. When 
I removed from that house I was under the necessity of making 
fixed air for myself ; and one experiment leading to another, as I 
have distinctly and faithfully noted in my various publications on 
the subject, I by degrees contrived a convenient apparatus for the 
purpose, but of the cheapest kind. 

" "When I began these experiments I knew very little of chem- 
istry, and had, in a manner, no idea on the subject before I at- 
tended a course of chemical lectures, delivered in the Academy at 
"Warrington, by Dr. Turner of Liverpool. But I have often thought 
that, upon the whole, this circumstance was no disadvantage to mo ; 
as, in this situation, I was led to devise an apparatus and processes 
of my own, adapted to my peculiar views ; whereas, if I had been 
previously accustomed to the usual chemical processes, I should not 
have so easily thought of any other, and without new modes of oper- 
ation, I should hardly have discovered anything materially new." * 

* "Autobiography," 100, 101. 


The first outcome of Priestley's chemical work, pub- 
lished in 1772, was of a very practical character. He 
discovered the way of impregnating water with an ex- 
cess of " fixed air/' or carbonic acid, and thereby pro- 
ducing what we now know as "soda water" a service 
to naturally, and still more to artificially, thirsty souls, 
which those whose parched throats and hot heads are 
cooled by morning draughts of that beverage, cannot 
too gratefully acknowledge. In the same year, Priestley 
communicated the extensive series of observations which 
his industry and ingenuity had accumulated, in the course 
of four years, to the Eoyal Society, under the title of 
"Observations on Different Kinds of Air" a memoir 
which was justly regarded of so much merit and im- 
portance, that the Society at once conferred upon the 
author the highest distinction in their power, by award- 
ing him the Copley Medal. 

In 1771 a proposal was made to Priestley to accom- 
pany Captain Cook in his second voyage to the South 
Seas. He accepted it, and his congregation agreed to 
pay an assistant to supply his place during his absence. 
But the appointment lay in the hands of the Board of 
Longitude, of which certain clergymen were members ; 
and whether these worthy ecclesiastics feared that Priest- 
ley's presence among the ship's company might expose 
his Majesty's Sloop Resolution to the fate which afore- 
time befell a certain ship that went from Joppa to 
Tarshish; or whether they were alarmed lest a Socin- 
ian should undermine that piety which, in the days of 


Commodore Trimnion, so strikingly characterised sailors, 
does .not appear; but, at any rate, they objected to 
Priestley " on account of Ms religious principles," and 
appointed the two Forsters, whose "religious princi- 
ples/' if they had been known to these well-meaning 
but not far-sighted persons, would probably have sur- 
prised them. 

In 1772 another proposal was made to Priestley. 
Lord Shelburne, desiring a "literary companion," had 
been brought into communication with Priestley by the 
good offices of a friend of both, Dr. Price ; and offered 
him the nominal post of librarian, with a good house 
and appointments, and an annuity in case of the termi- 
nation of the engagement. Priestley accepted the offer, 
and remained with Lord Shelburne for seven years, 
sometimes residing at Calne, sometimes travelling abroad 
with the Earl. 

Why the connection terminated has never been ex- 
actly known; but it is certain that Lord Shelburne 
behaved with the utmost consideration and kindness 
towards Priestley ; that he fulfilled his engagements to 
the letter; and that, at a later period, he expressed a 
desire that Priestley should return to his old footing 
in his house. Probably enough, the politician, aspiring 
to the highest offices in the state, may have found the 
position of the protector of a man who was being de- 
nounced all over the country as an infidel and an atheist 
somewhat embarrassing. In fact, a passage in Priest- 
ley's "Autobiography" on the occasion of the publi- 


cation of his "Disquisitions relating to Matter and 
Spirit/' which, took place in 1777, indicates pretty clearly 
the state of the case: 

"(126) It being probable that this publication would be un- 
popular, and might be the means of bringing odium on my patron, 
several attempts were made by his friends, though none by himself, 
to dissuade me from persisting in it. But being, as I thought, en- 
gaged in the cause of important truth, I proceeded without regard 
to any consequences, assuring them that this publication should not 
be injurious to his lordship." 

It is not unreasonable to suppose that his lordship, 
as a keen, practical man of the world, did not derive 
much satisfaction from this assurance. The "evident 
marks of dissatisfaction" which Priestley says he first 
perceived in his patron in 1778, may well have arisen 
from the peer's not unnatural uneasiness as to what his 
domesticated, but not tamed, philosopher might write 
next, and what storm might thereby be brought down on 
his own head ; and it speaks very highly for Lord Shel- 
burne's delicacy that, in the midst of such perplexities, 
he made not the least attempt to interfere with Priest- 
ley's freedom of action. In 1780, however, he intimated 
to Dr. Price that he should be glad to establish Priestley 
on his Irish estates : the suggestion was interpreted, as 
Lord Shelburne probably intended it should be, and 
Priestley left him, the annuity of 150 a year, which 
had been promised in view of such a contingency, being 
punctually paid. 

After leaving Calne, Priestley spent some little time 
in London, and then, having settled in Birmingham at 


the desire of his brother-in-law, he was soon invited to 
become the minister of a large congregation. This set- 
tlement Priestley considered, at the time, to be "the 
happiest event of his life." And well he might think 
so ; for it gave him competence and leisure ; placed him 
within reach of the best makers of apparatus of the day ; 
made him a member of that remarkable " Lunar Soci- 
ety," at whose meetings he could exchange thoughts 
with such men as "Watt, "Wedgewood, Darwin, and 
Boulton ; and threw open to him the pleasant house of 
the Galtons of Barr, where these men, and others of less 
note, formed a society of exceptional charm and intelli- 

But these halcyon days were ended by a bitter storm. 
The French Eevolution broke out. An electric shock 
ran through the nations ; whatever there was of corrupt 
and retrograde, and, at the same time, a great deal of 
what there was of best and noblest, in European society 

* See " The Life of Mary Anne Schimmelpenninck." Mrs, Schimmel- 
penninck (n&e Gralton) remembered Priestley very well, and her description 
of him is worth quotation: "A man of admirable simplicity, gentleness 
and kindness of heart, united with great acuteness of intellect. I can 
never forget the impression produced on me by the serene expression of his 
countenance. He, indeed, seemed present with God by recollection, and 
with man by cheerfulness. I remember that, in the assembly of these dis- 
tinguished men, amongst whom Mr. Boulton, by his noble manner, his fine 
countenance (which much resembled that of Louis XIV.), and princely muni- 
ficence, stood pre-eminently as the great Mecsenas ; even as a child, I used 
to feel, when Dr. Priestley entered after him, that the glory of the one was 
terrestrial, that of the other celestial ; and utterly far as I am removed from 
a belief in the sufficiency of Dr. Priestley's theological creed, I cannot but 
here record this evidence of the eternal power of any portion of the truth 
held in its vitality." 


shuddered at the outburst of long-pent-up social fires. 
Men's feelings were excited in a way that we, in this 
generation, can hardly comprehend. Party wrath and 
virulence were expressed in a manner unparalleled, and 
it is to be hoped impossible, in our times ; and Priestley 
and his friends were held up to public scorn, even in 
Parliament, as foinenters of sedition. A " Church-and- 
King" cry was raised against the Liberal Dissenters; 
and, in Birmingham, it was intensified and specially 
directed towards Priestley by a local controversy, in 
which he had engaged with his usual vigour. In 1791, 
the celebration of the second anniversary of the taking 
of the Bastille by a public dinner, with which Priestley 
had nothing whatever to do, gave the signal to the loyal 
and pious mob, who, unchecked, and indeed to some 
extent encouraged, by those who were responsible for 
order, had the town at their mercy for three days. The 
chapels and houses of the leading Dissenters were 
wrecked, and Priestley and his family had to fly for 
their lives, leaving library, apparatus, papers, and all 
their possessions, a prey to the flames. 

Priestley never returned to Birmingham. He bore 
the outrages and losses inflicted upon him with extreme 
patience and sweetness,* and betook himself to London. 
But even his scientific colleagues gave Mm a cold shoul- 

* Even Mrs. Priestley, who might be forgiven for regarding the destroy- 
ers of her household gods with, some asperity, contents herself, in writing 
to Mrs, Barbauld, with the sarcasm that the Birmingham people "will 
scarcely find so many respectable characters, a second time, to make a bon- 
fire of." 


der; and though he was elected minister of a congrega- 
tion at Hackney, he felt his position to be insecure, and 
finally determined on emigrating to the United States. 
He landed in America in 1794 ; lived quietly with his 
sons at Northumberland, in Pennsylvania, where his pos- 
terity still flourish ; and, clear-headed and busy to the 
last, died on the 6th of February 1804. 

Such were the conditions tinder which Joseph Priest- 
ley did the work which lay before him, and then, as the 
Norse Sagas say, went out of the story. The work itself 
was of the most varied kind. No human interest was 
without its attraction for Priestley, and few men have 
ever had so many irons in the fire at once ; but, though 
he may have burned his fingers a little, very few who 
have tried that operation have burned their fingers so 
little. He made admirable discoveries in science; his 
philosophical treatises are still well worth reading; his 
political works are full of insight and replete with the 
spirit of freedom ; and while all these sparks flew off 
from his anvil, the controversial hammer rained a hail of 
blows on orthodox priest and bishop. While thus en- 
gaged, the kindly, cheerful doctor felt no more wrath or 
uncharitableness towards his opponents than a smith does 
towards his iron. But if the iron could only speak ! 
and the priests and bishops took the point of view of the 

No doubt what Priestley's friends repeatedly urged 
upon him that he would have escaped the heavier trials 


of Ms life and done more for the advancement of knowl- 
edge, if lie had confined himself to his scientific pursuits 
and let his fellow-men go their way was true. But it 
seems to have been Priestley's feeling that he was a man 
and a citizen before he was a philosopher, and that the 
duties of the two former positions are at least as impera- 
tive as those of the latter. Moreover, there are men (and 
I think Priestley was one of them) to whom the satisfac- 
tion of throwing down a triumphant fallacy is as great as 
that which attends the discovery of a new truth; who 
feel better satisfied with the government of the world, 
when they have been helping Providence by knocking 
an imposture on the head ; and who care even more for 
freedom of thought than for mere advance of knowl- 
edge. These men are the Oarnots who organise victory 
for truth, and they are, at least, as important as the gen- 
erals who visibly fight her battles in the field. 

Priestley's reputation as a man of science rests upon 
his numerous and important contributions to the chem- 
istry of gaseous bodies ; and to form a just estimate of 
the value of his work of the extent to which it ad- 
vanced the knowledge of fact and the development of 
sound theoretical views we must reflect what chemis- 
try was in the first half of the eighteenth century. 

The vast science which now passes under that name 
had no existence. Air, water, and fire were still counted 
among the elemental bodies; and though Van Hel- 
mont, a century before, had distinguished different kinda 


of air as gas ventosum and gas sylvestre, and Boyle and 
Hales had experimentally defined the physical proper- 
ties of air, and discriminated some of the various kinds 
of aeriform bodies, no one suspected the existence of 
the numerous totally distinct gaseous elements which are 
now known, or dreamed that the air we breathe and the 
water we drink are compounds of gaseous elements. 

But, in 1754, a young Scotch physician, Dr. Black, 
made the first clearing in this tangled backwood of 
knowledge. And it gives one a wonderful impression 
of the juvenility of scientific chemistry to think that 
Lord Brougham, whom so many of us recollect, at- 
tended Black's lectures when he was a student in Edin- 
burgh. Black's researches gave the world the novel 
and startling conception of a gas that was a permanent- 
ly elastic fluid like air, but that differed from common 
air in being much heavier, very poisonous, and in hav- 
ing the properties of an acid, capable of neutralising 
the strongest alkalies ; and it took the world some time 
to become accustomed to the notion. 

A dozen years later, one of the most sagacious and 
accurate investigators who has adorned this, or any 
other, country, Henry Cavendish, published a memoir 
in the " Philosophical Transactions," in which he deals 
not only with the " fixed air " (now called carbonic acid 
or carbonic anhydride) of Black, but with a inflammable 
air," or what we now term hydrogen. 

By the rigorous application of weight and measure 
to all his processes, Cavendish implied the belief subse- 


quently formulated by Lavoisier, that, in chemical pro- 
cesses, matter is neither created nor destroyed, and in- 
dicated the path along which all future explorers must 
travel. Nor did he himself halt until this path led 
him, in 1781, to the brilliant and fundamental discovery 
that water is composed of two gases united in fixed 
and constant proportions. 

It is a trying ordeal for any man to be compared 
with Black and Cavendish, and Priestley cannot be said 
to stand on their level. Nevertheless, his achievements 
are not only great in themselves, but truly wonderful, 
if we consider the disadvantages under which he la- 
boured. Without the careful scientific training of Black, 
without the leisure and appliances secured by the wealth 
of Cavendish, he scaled the walls of science as so many 
Englishmen have done before and since his day; and 
trusting to mother wit to supply the place of training, 
and to ingenuity to create apparatus out of washing 
tubs, he discovered more new gases than all his prede- 
cessors put together had done. He laid the founda- 
tions of gas analysis ; he discovered the complementary 
actions of animal and vegetable life upon the constitu- 
ents of the atmosphere ; and, finally, he crowned his work, 
this day one hundred years ago, by the discovery of 
that " pure dephlogisticated air J? to which the French 
chemists subsequently gave the name of oxygen. Its 
importance, as the constituent of the atmosphere which 
disappears in the processes of respiration and combus- 
tion, and is restored by green plants growing in sun- 


shine, was proved somewhat later. For these brilliant 
discoveries, the Koyal Society elected Priestley a fellow 
and gave him their medal, while the Academies of Paris 
and St. Petersburg conferred their membership upon 
him. Edinburgh had made him an honorary doctor of 
laws at an early period of his career; but, I need 
hardly add, that a man of Priestley's opinions received 
no recognition from the universities of his own country. 

That Priestley's contributions to the knowledge of 
chemical fact were of the greatest importance, and that 
they richly deserve all the praise that has been awarded 
to them, is unquestionable; but it must, at the same 
time, be admitted that he had no comprehension of the 
deeper significance of his work ; and, so far from con- 
tributing anything to the theory of the facts which he 
discovered, or assisting in their rational explanation, his 
influence to the end of his life was warmly exerted in 
favour of error. From first to last, he was a stiff ad- 
herent of the phlogiston doctrine which, was prevalent 
when his studies commenced ; and, by a curious irony 
of fate, the man who by the discovery of what he called 
." dephlogisticated air" furnished the essential datum for 
the true theory of combustion, of respiration, and of the 
composition of water, to the end of his days fought 
against the inevitable corollaries from his own labours. 
His last scientific work, published in 1800, bears the 
title, " The Doctrine of Phlogiston established, and that 
of the Composition of Water refuted." 

When Priestley commenced his studies, the current 


belief was, that, atmospheric air, freed from accidental 
impurities, is a simple elementary substance, indestructi- 
ble and unalterable, as water was supposed to be. When 
a combustible burned, or when an animal breathed in 
air, it was supposed that a substance, " phlogiston," the 
matter of heat and light, passed from the burning or 
breathing body into it, and destroyed its powers of sup- 
porting life and combustion. Thus, air contained in a 
vessel in which a lighted candle had gone out, or a liv- 
ing animal had breathed until it could breathe no longer, 
was called " phlogisticated." The same result was sup- 
posed to be brought about by the addition of what 
Priestley called "nitrous gas" to common air. 

In the course of his researches, Priestley found that 
the quantity of common air which can thus become 
" phlogisticated," amounts to about one-fifth the volume 
of the whole quantity submitted to experiment. Hence 
it appeared that common air consists, to the extent of 
four-fifths of its volume, of air which is already " phlo- 
gisticated ;" while the other fifth is free from phlogiston, 
or " dephlogisticated." On the other hand, Priestley 
found that air "phlogisticated" by combustion or respira- 
tion could be " dephlogisticated," or have the properties 
of pure common air restored to it, by the action of 
green plants in sunshine. The question, therefore, would 
naturally arise as common air can be wholly phlogisti- 
cated by combustion, and converted into a substance 
which will no longer support, combustion, is it possible 
to get air that shall be less phlogisticated than com- 


mon air, and consequently support combustion better 
than common air does? 

Now, Priestley says that, in 17W, the possibility of 
obtaining air less pHogisticated than common air had not 
occurred to him.^ But in pursuing his experiments 
on the evolution of air from various bodies by means 
of heat, it happened that, on the 1st of August 1774? 
he threw the heat of the sun, by means of a large burn- 
ing glass which he had recently obtained, upon a sub- 
stance which was then called mercurius calcinatus per 
#s, and which is commonly known as red precipitate. 

" I presently found that, by means of this lens, air was expelled 
from it very readily. Having got about three or four times as much 
as the bulk of my materials, I admitted water to it, and found that 
it was not imbibed by it. But what surprised me more than I can 
well express, was that a candle burned in this air with a remarkably 
vigorous flame, very much like that enlarged flame with which a 
candle burns in nitrous air, exposed to iron or lime of sulphur ; but 
as I had got nothing like this remarkable appearance from any kind 
of air besides this particular modification of nitrous air, and I knew 
no nitrous acid was used in the preparation of mercurim calcinatus, 
I was utterly at a loss how to account for it. 

"In this case also, though I did not give sufficient attention to 
the circumstance at that time, the flame of the candle, besides 
being larger, burned with more splendour and heat than in that 
species of nitrous air; and a piece of red-hot wood sparkled in it, 
exactly like paper dipped in a solution of nitre, and it consumed 
very fast an experiment which I had never thought of trying with 
nitrous air."f 

Priestley obtained the same sort of air from red 
lead, but, as he says himself, he remained in ignorance 

* " Experlraenis and Observations on Different Kinds of Air," vol. ii. 
P* 81- f -flK* PP- 34, 30. 


of the properties of this new kind of air for seven 
months, or until March 1775, when he found that the 
new air behaved with " nitrous gas 3? in the same way 
as the dephlogisticated part of common air does;* but 
that, instead of being diminished to f our~fif ths, it almost 
completely vanished, and, therefore, showed itself to be 
"between five and six times as good as the best com- 
mon air I have ever met with." f As this new air thus 
appeared to be completely free from phlogiston, Priestley 
called it "dephlogisticated air." 

What was the nature of this air ? Priestley found 
that the same kind of air was to be obtained by moisten- 
ing with the spirit of nitre (which he terms nitrous 
acid) any kind of earth that is free from phlogiston, 
and applying heat; and consequently he says: "There 
remained no doubt on my mind but that the atmos- 
pherical air, or the thing that we breathe, consists of 
the nitrous acid and earth, with so much phlogiston as 
is necessary to its elasticity, and likewise so much more 
as is required to bring it from its state of perfect purity 
to the mean condition in which we find it. ?? $ 

Priestley's view, in fact, is that atmospheric air 
is a kind of saltpetre, in which the potash is replaced 
by some unknown earth. And in speculating on the 
manner in which saltpetre is formed, he enunciates the 
hypothesis, " that nitre is formed by a real decomposition 
of the air itself, the loses that are presented to it hav- 

* " Experiments and Observations on Different Kinds of Air," vol. ii. 
p. 40. t HM* P- 4 8. \ IUd * P* 66 - 


ing, in such, circumstances, a nearer affinity with the 
spirit of nitre than that kind of earth with which it 
is united in the atmosphere. 3 ' * 

It would have been hard for the most ingenious 
person to have wandered farther from the truth than 
Priestley does in this hypothesis ; and, though Lavoisier 
undoubtedly treated Priestley very ill, and pretended 
to have discovered dephlogisticated air, or oxygen, as 
he called it, independently, we can almost forgive him, 
when we reflect how different were the ideas which 
the great Erench chemist attached to the body which 
Priestley discovered. 

They are like two navigators of whom the first 
sees a new country, but takes clouds for mountains 
and mirage for lowlands; while the second determines 
its length and breadth, and lays down on a chart its 
exact place, so that, thenceforth, it serves as a guide 
to his successors, and becomes a secure outpost whence 
new explorations may be pushed. 

Nevertheless, as Priestley himself somewhere re- 
marks, the first object of physical science is to ascer- 
tain facts, and the service which he rendered to chem- 
istry by the definite establishment of a large number 
of new and fundamentally important facts, is such as 
to entitle him to a very high place among the fathers 
of chemical science. 

It is difficult to say whether Priestley's philosophical, 

* " Experiments and Observations on Different Kinds of Air," vol. ii. 
p. 60. The italics are Priestley's own. 


political, or theological views were most responsible for 
the bitter hatred which was borne to him by a large 
body of his countrymen,* and which found its expres- 
sion in the malignant insinuations- in which Burke, to his 
everlasting shame, indulged in the House of Commons. 

"Without containing much that will be new to the 
readers of Hobbes, Spinoza, Collins, Hume, and Hartley, 
and, indeed, while making no pretensions to originality, 
Priestley's " Disquisitions relating to Matter and Spirit," 
and his " Doctrine of Philosophical Necessity illus- 
trated," are among the most powerful, clear, and un- 
flinching expositions of materialism and necessarianism 
which exist in the English language, and are still well 
worth reading. 

Priestley denied the freedom of the will in the sense 
of its self-determination; he denied the existence of a 
soul distinct from the body ; and as a natural conse- 
quence, he denied the natural immortality of man. 

In relation to these matters English opinion, a cen- 
tury ago, was very much what it is now. 

A man may be a necessarian without incurring graver 

* *' In all the newspapers and most of the periodical publications I was 
represented as an unbeliever in Revelation, and no better than an atheist." 
u Autobiography," Rutt. vol. i. p. 124. "On the walls of houses, etc., 
and especially where I usually went, were to be seen, in large characters, 
PRESBYTERIANS/ etc. etc. ; and, at one time, I was followed by a number of 
boys, who left their play, repeating what they had seen on the walls, and 
shouting out, < Damn Priestley; damn Mm, damn him, for ever, for ewer, 
etc. etc. This was no doubt a lesson which they had been taught by their 
parents, and what they, I fear, had learned from their superiors." " Appeal 
to the Public on the Subject of the Riots at Birmingham." 


reproach than that implied in being called a gloomy 
fanatic, necessarianism, though very shocking, haying a 
note of Oalvinistic orthodoxy ; but, if a man is a ma- 
terialist ; or, if good authorities say he is and must be 
so, in spite of his assertion to the contrary ; or, if he 
acknowledge himself unable to see good reasons for be- 
lieving in the natural immortality of man, respectable 
folks look upon him as an unsafe neighbour of a cash- 
box, as an actual or potential sensualist, the more vir- 
tuous in outward seeming, the more certainly loaded 
with secret "grave personal sins." 

Nevertheless, it is as certain as anything can be, that 
Joseph Priestley was no gloomy fanatic, but as cheerful 
and kindly a soul as ever breathed, the idol of children ; 
a man who was hated only by those who did not know 
him, and who charmed away the bitterest prejudices in 
personal intercourse ; a man who never lost a friend, 
and the best testimony to whose worth is the generous 
and tender warmth with which his many friends vied 
with one another in rendering Mm substantial help, in 
all the crises of his career. 

The unspotted purity of Priestley's life, the strict- 
ness of his performance of every duty, his transparent 
sincerity, the unostentatious and deep-seated piety which 
breathes through all his correspondence, are in them- 
selves a sufficient refutation of the hypothesis, invented 
by bigots to cover uncharitableness, that such opinions 
as his must arise from moral defects. And his statue 
will do as good service as the brazen image that was set 


upon a pole before the Israelites, if those who have been 
bitten by the fiery serpents of sectarian hatred, which 
still haunt this wilderness of a world, are made whole by 
looking upon the image of a heretic, who was yet a saint. 
Though Priestley did not believe in the natural im- 
mortality of man, he held with an almost naive realism, 
that man would be raised from the dead by a direct 
exertion of the power of God, and thenceforward be 
immortal. And it may be as well for those who may be 
shocked by this doctrine to know that views, substan- 
tially identical with Priestley's, have been advocated, 
since his time, by two prelates of the Anglican Church : 
by Dr. "Whately, Archbishop of Dublin, in his well- 
known "Essays;"* and by Dr. Oourtenay, Bishop of 
Kingston in Jamaica, the first edition of whose remark- 
able book " On the Future States," dedicated to Arch- 
bishop Whately, was published in 1843 and the second 
in 1857. According to Bishop Courtenay, 

" The death of the body will cause a cessation of all the activity 
of the mind hy way of natural consequence ; to continue for ever 
UNLESS the Creator should interfere." 

And again: 

u The natural end of human existence is the l first death,' the 
dreamless slumber of the grave, wherein man lies spellbound, soul 
and body, under the dominion of sin and death that whatever 
modes of conscious existence, whatever future states of c life * or of 
4 torment ' beyond Hades are reserved for man, are results of our 
blessed Lord's victory over sin and death ; that the resurrection of 

* First series. u On Some of the Peculiarities of the Christian Relig- 
ion." Essay I. Kevelation of a Future State. 


the dead must be preliminary to their entrance into either of the 
future states, and that the nature and even existence of these states 
and even the mere fact that there is a futurity of consciousness, can 
"be known only through God's revelation of Himself in the Person 
and the Gospel of His Son." P. 389. 

And now hear Priestley: 

"Man, according to this system (of materialism), is no more than 
we now see of him. His being commences at the time of his con- 
ception, or perhaps at an earlier period. The corporeal and mental 
faculties, in being in the same substance, grow, ripen, and decay to- 
gether; and whenever the system is dissolved it continues in a state 
of dissolution till it shall please that Almighty Being who called it 
into existence to restore it to life again." "Matter and Spirit," 
p. 49. 

And again : 

" The doctrine of the Scripture is, that God made man of the 
dust of the ground, and by simply animating this organised matter, 
-made man that living percipient and intelligent being that he is. 
According to Revelation, death is a state of rest and insensibility, 
and our only though sure hope of a future life is founded on the 
doctrine of the resurrection of the whole man at some distant pe- 
riod ; this assurance being sufficiently confirmed to us both by the 
evident tokens of a Divine commission attending the persons who 
delivered the doctrine, and especially by the actual resurrection of 
Jesus Christ, which is more authentically attested than any other 
fact in history." IUd. y p. 247. 

"We all know that " a saint in crape is twice a saint 
in lawn ; " but it is not yet admitted that the views 
which are consistent with such saintliness in lawn, be- 
come diabolical when held by a mere dissenter.* 

* Not only is Priestley at one with Bishop Courtenay in this matter, but 
with Hartley and Bonnet, both of them stout champions of Christianity. 
Moreover, Archbishop Whately's essay is little better than an expansion of 
the first paragraph of Hume's famous essay on the Immortality of the 
Soul : " By the mere light of reason it seems difficult to prove the im- 


I am not here either to defend or to attack Priestley's 
philosophical views, and I cannot say that I am person- 
ally disposed to attach much value to episcopal author- 
ity in philosophical questions ; but it seems right to call 
attention to the fact, that those of Priestley's opinions 
which have brought most odium upon him, have "been 
openly promulgated, without challenge, by persons oc- 
cupying the highest positions in the State Church. 

I must confess that what interests me most about 
Priestley's materialism, is the evidence that he saw dimly 
the seed of destruction which such materialism carries 
within its own bosom. In the course of his reading for 
his "History of Discoveries relating to Yision, Light, 
and Colours," he had come upon the speculations of 
Boscovich and Michell, and had been led to admit the 
sufficiently obvious truth that our knowledge of mat- 
ter is a knowledge of its properties; and that of its 
substance if it have a substance we know nothing. 
And this led to the further admission that, so far as we 
can know, there may be no difference between the sub- 
stance of matter and the substance of spirit (" Disquisi- 
tions," p. 16). A step farther would have shown Priest- 
ley that his materialism was, essentially, very little 
different from the Idealism of his contemporary, the 
Bishop of Cloyne. 

mortality of the soul ; the arguments for It are commonly derired either, 
from metaphysical topics, or moral, or physical But it is in reality the 
Gospel, and the Gospel alone, that has brought life and immortality to ligJii} 1 * 
It is impossible to imagine that a man of Whately's tastes and acquirements 
had not read Hume or Hartley, though he refers to neither. 


As Priestley's philosophy is mainly a clear statement 
of the views of the deeper thinkers of his day, so are 
his political conceptions based upon those of Locke. 
Locke's aphorism that "the end of government is the 
good of mankind/' is thus expanded by Priestley : 

" It must necessarily be understood, therefore, whether it be 
expressed or not, that all people live in society for their mutual 
advantage ; so that the good and happiness of the members, that 
is, of the majority of the members, of any state, is the great 
standard by which everything relating to that state must finally be 
determined." * 

The little sentence here interpolated, " that is, of the 
majority of the members of any state," appears to be 
that passage which suggested to Bentham, according to 
his own acknowledgment, the famous "greatest happi- 
ness" formula, which by substituting "happiness" for 
"good," has converted a noble into an ignoble princi- 
ple. But I do not call to mind that there is any utter- 
ance in Locke quite so outspoken as the following pas- 
sage in the "Essay on the First Principles of Govern- 
ment." After laying down as "a fundamental maxim 
in all governments," the proposition that " kings, sena- 
tors, and nobles" are "the servants of the public," 
Priestley goes on to say: 

"But in the largest states, if the abuses of the government 
should at any time be great and manifest ; if the servants of the 
people, forgetting their masters and their masters' interest, should 
pursue a separate one of their own ; if, instead of considering that 

* " Essay on the First Principles of Government." Second edition, 
, p. 13. 


they are made for the people, they should consider the people as 
made for them ; if the oppressions and violation, of right should he 
great, flagrant, and universally resented ; if the tyrannical gover- 
nors should have no friends hut a few sycophants, who had long 
preyed upon the vitals of their fellow-citizens, and who might he 
expected to desert a government whenever their interests should 
he detached from it ; if, in consequence of these circumstances, it 
should "become manifest that the risk which would he run in at- 
tempting a revolution would he trifling, and the evils which might 
be apprehended from it were far less than those which were actually 
suffered and which were daily increasing ; in the name of God, I 
ask, what principles are those which ought to restrain an injured 
and insulted people from asserting their natural rights, and from 
changing or even punishing their governors that is, their ser- 
vants who had ahused their trust, or from altering the whole form 
of their government, if it appeared to he of a structure so liable to 

As a Dissenter, subject to tlie operation of the Cor- 
poration and Test Acts, and as a Unitarian, excluded 
from the benefit of the Toleration Act, it is not sur- 
prising to find that Priestley had very definite opinions 
about Ecclesiastical Establishments ; the only wonder is 
that these opinions were so moderate as the following 
passages show them to have been : 

" Ecclesiastical authority may have been necessary in the infant 
state of society, and, for the same reason, it may perhaps continue 
to be, in some degree, necessary as long as society is imperfect ; 
and therefore may not be entirely abolished till civil governments 
have arrived at a much greater degree of perfection. If, therefore, 
I were asked whether I should approve of the immediate dissolu- 
tion of all the ecclesiastical establishments in Europe, I should an- 
swer, No. . . . Let experiment be first made of alterations, or, 
which is the same thing, of better e&tabUsJiments than the present. 
Let them be reformed in many essential articles, and then not 
thrown aside entirely till it be found by experience that no good can 
be made of them." 


Priestley goes on to suggest four such reforms of 
a capital nature : 

" 1. Let the Articles of Faith to be subscribed by candidates for 
the ministry be greatly reduced. In the formulary of the Church 
of England, might not thirty-eight out of the thirty-nine be very 
well spared ? It is a reproach to any Christian establishment if 
every man cannot claim the benefit of it who can say that he be- 
lieves in the religion of Jesus Christ as it is set forth in the !N"ew 
Testament. You say the terms are so general that even Deists 
would quibble and insinuate themselves. I answer that all the arti- 
cles which are subscribed at present, by no means exclude Deists 
who will prevaricate; and upon this scheme you would at least 
exclude fewer honest men." * 

The second reform suggested is the equalisation, in 
proportion to work done, of the stipends of the clergy ; 
the third, the exclusion of the bishops from Parliament ; 
and the fourth, complete toleration, so that every man 
may enjoy the rights of a citizen, and be qualified to 
servo his country, whether he belong to the Established 
Church or not. 

Opinions such as those I have quoted, respecting the 
duties and the responsibilities of governors, are the 
commonplaces of modern Liberalism ; and Priestley's 
views on Ecclesiastical Establishments would, I fear, 
meet with but a cool reception, as altogether too con- 
servative, from a large proportion of the lineal descend- 
ants of the people who taught their children to cry 
" Damn Priestley ;" and, with that love for the practi- 
cal application of science which is the source of the 

* "Utility of Establishments," in "Essay on First Principles of Govern- 
ment," p. 198, 


greatness of Birmingham, tried to set fire to the doctor's 
house with sparks from his own electrical machine; there- 
by giving the man they called an incendiary and raiser 
of sedition against Church and King, an appropriately 
experimental illustration of the nature of arson and riot. 

If I have succeeded in putting before you the main 
features of Priestley's wort, its value will become ap- 
parent, when we compare the condition of the English 
nation, as he knew it, with its present state. 

The fact that France has been for eighty-five years 
trying, without much success, to right herself after the 
great storm of the Revolution, is not unfrequently cited 
among us, as an indication of some inherent incapacity 
for self-government among the French people. I think, 
however, that Englishmen who argue thus, forget that, 
from the meeting of the Long Parliament in 1640, to 
the last Stuart rebellion in 1Y45, is a hundred and five 
years, and that, in the middle of the last century, we 
had but just safely freed ourselves from our Bourbons 
and all that they represented. The corruption of our 
state was as bad as that of the Second Empire. Bribery 
was the instrument of government, and peculation its 
reward. Four-fifths of the seats in the House of Com- 
mons were more or less openly dealt with as property. A 
minister had to consider the state of the vote market, and 
the sovereign secured a sufficiency of "king's friends" by 
payments allotted with retail, rather than royal, sagacity. 

Barefaced and brutal immorality and intemperance 


pervaded the land, from the highest to the lowest classes 
of society. The Established Church was torpid, so far 
as it was not a scandal ; but those who dissented from 
it came within the meshes of the Act of Uniformity, 
the Test Act, and the Corporation Act. By law, such a 
man as Priestley, being a Unitarian, could neither teach 
nor preach, and was liable to ruinous fines and long im- 
prisonment.* In those days, the guns that were pointed 
by the Church against the Dissenters were shotted. The 
law was a cesspool of iniquity and cruelty. Adam Smith 
was a new prophet whom few regarded, and commerce 
was hampered by idiotic impediments, and ruined by 
still more absurd help, on the part of government. 

Birmingham, though already the centre of a consid- 
erable industry, was a mere village as compared with 
its present extent. People who travelled went about 
armed, by reason of the abundance of highwaymen and 
the paucity and inefficiency of the police. Stage coaches 
had not reached Birmingham, and it took three clays to 
get to London. Even canals were a recent and much 
opposed invention. 

Newton had laid the foundation of a mechanical con- 
ception of the physical universe: Hartley, putting a 
modern face upon ancient materialism, had extended 
that mechanical conception to psychology ; Linnaeus and 
Haller were beginning to introduce method and order 
into the chaotic accumulation of biological facts. But 
those parts of physical science which deal with heat 

*In 1782 Doddridge was cited for teaching without the Bishop's 
leave, at Northampton* 


electricity, and magnetism, and above all, chemistry, in 
the modern sense, can hardly be said to have had an 
existence. No one knew that two of the old elemental 
bodies, air and water, are compounds, and that a third, 
fire, is not a substance but a motion. The great indus- 
tries that have grown out of the applications of modern 
scientific discoveries had no existence, and the man who 
should have foretold tlieir coming into being in the days 
of his son, would have been regarded as a mad enthusiast. 

In common with many other excellent persons, 
Priestley believed that man is capable of reaching, and 
will eventually attain, perfection. If the temperature 
of space presented no obstacle, I should be glad to 
entertain the same idea; but judging from the past 
progress of our species, I am afraid that the globe 
will have cooled down so far, before the advent of this 
natural millennium, that we shall be, at best, perfected 
Esquimaux. For all practical purposes, however, it is 
enough that man may visibly improve his condition in 
the course of a century or so. And, if the picture of 
the state of things in Priestley's time, which I have 
just drawn, have any pretence to accuracy, I think it 
must be admitted that there has been a considerable 
change for the better. 

I need not advert to the well-worn topic of material 
advancement, in a place in which the very stones testify 
to that progress in the town of "Watt and of Boulton. 
I will only remark, in passing, that material advance- 
ment has its share in moral and intellectual progress. 


Becky Sharp's acute remark that it is not difficult to be 
virtuous on ten thousand a year, has its application to 
nations ; and it is futile to expect a hungry and squalid 
population to be anything but violent and gross. But 
as regards other than material welfare, although perfec- 
tion is not yet in sight even from the mast-head it is 
surely true that things are much better than they were. 

Take the upper and middle classes as a whole, and it 
may be said that open immorality and gross intemperance 
have vanished. Four and six bottle men are as extinct 
as the dodo. "Women of good repute do not gamble, 
and talk modelled upon Dean Swift's "Art of Polite 
Conversation" would be tolerated in no decent kitchen. 

Members of the legislature are not to be bought ; 
and constituents are awakening to the fact that votes 
must not be sold even for such trifles as rabbits and 
tea and cake. Political power has passed into the hands 
of the masses of the people. Those whom Priestley 
calls their servants have recognised their position, and 
have requested the master to be so good as to go to 
school and fit himself for the administration of his prop- 
erty. No civil disability attaches to any one on theo- 
logical grounds, and the highest offices of the state are 
open to Papist, Jew, or Secularist.* 

Whatever men's opinions as to the policy of Estab- 
lishment, no one can hesitate to admit that the clergy 
of the Church are men of pure life and conversation, 

* The recent proceedings of the House of Commons throw a doubt, 
which it is to be hoped may speedily be removed, on the accuracy of 
this statement. (September 1881.) 


zealous in the discharge of their duties ; and, at present, 
apparently, more bent on prosecuting one another than 
on meddling with Dissenters. Theology itself has broad- 
ened so much, that Anglican divines put forward doc- 
trines more liberal than those of Priestley ; and, in our 
state- supported churches, one listener may hear a sermon 
to which Bossuet might have given his approbation, 
while another may hear a discourse in which Socrates 
would find nothing new. 

But great as these changes may be, they sink into 
insignificance beside the progress of physical science, 
whether we consider the improvement of methods of 
investigation, or the increase in bulk of solid knowledge. 
Consider that the labours of Laplace, of Young, of Davy, 
and of Faraday ; of Ouvier, of Lamarck, and of Eobert 
Brown; of Yon Baer, and of Schwann; of Smith and 
of Hutton, have all been carried on since Priestley dis- 
covered oxygen ; and consider that they are now things 
of the past, concealed by the industry of those who have 
built upon them, as the first founders of a coral reef 
are hidden beneath the life's work of their successors ; 
consider that the methods of physical science are slowly 
spreading into all investigations, and that proofs as valid 
as those required by her canons of investigation, are 
being demanded of all doctrines which ask for men's 
assent ; and you will have a faint image of the astound- 
ing difference in this respect between the nineteenth' 
century and the eighteenth. 

If we ask what is the deeper meaning of all these 


vast changes, I think there can be but one reply. They 
mean that reason has asserted and exercised her primacy 
over all provinces of human activity : that ecclesiastical 
authority has been relegated to its proper place; that 
the good of the governed has been finally recognised 
as the end of government, and the complete responsibil- 
ity of governors to the people as its means ; and that the 
dependence of natural phenomena in general, on the laws 
of action of what we call matter has become an axiom. 

But it was to bring these things about, and to en- 
force the recognition of these truths, that Joseph Priest- 
ley laboured. If the nineteenth century is other and 
better than the eighteenth, it is, in great measure, to 
him and to such men as he, that we owe the change. 
If the twentieth century is to be better than tho nine- 
teenth, it will be because there are among us men who 
walk in Priestley's footsteps. 

Such men are not those whom their own generation 
delights to honour; such men, in fact, rarely trouble 
themselves about honour, but ask, in another spirit than 
Falstafl's, "What is honour? Who hath it? He that 
died o ? Wednesday." But whether Priestley's lot be 
theirs, and a future generation, in justice and in grati- 
tude, set up their statues ; or whether their names and 
fame are blotted out from remembrance, their work will 
live as long as time endures. To all eternity, the sum 
of truth and right will have been increased by their 
means; to all eternity, falsehood and injustice will be 
the weaker because they have lived. 



"Une marque plus sure que toutes celles de Zadig." CTTVIER.* 

IT is a usual and a commendable practice to preface 
the discussion of the views of a philosophic thinker by 
some account of the man and of the circumstances which 
shaped his life and coloured his way of looking at 
things ; but, though Zadig is cited in one of the most 
important chapters of Cuvier's greatest work, little is 
known about him, and that little might perhaps be bet- 
ter authenticated than it is. 

It is said that he lived at Babylon in the time of 
King Moabdar; but the name of Moabdar does not 
appear in the list of Babylonian sovereigns brought to 
light by the patience and the industry of the decipher- 
ers of cuneiform inscriptions in these later years; nor 
indeed am I aware that there is any other authority for 
his existence than that of the biographer of Zadig, one 
Arouet de Voltaire, among whose more conspicuous mer- 

* "Discours sur les revolutions de la surface dtt globe,'* Reehwches wr 
les ossemens fossiks, Ed. iv. t. i. p. 185. 


its strict historical accuracy is perhaps hardly to be reck- 

Happily Zadig is in the position of a great many 
other philosophers. What he was like when he was in 
the flesh, indeed whether he existed at all, are matters of 
no great consequence. What we care about in a light is 
that it shows the way, not whether it is lamp or candle, 
tallow or wax. Our only real interest in Zadig lies in 
the conceptions of which he is the putative father ; and 
his biographer has stated these with so much clearness 
and vivacious illustration, that we need hardly feel a 
pang, even if critical research should prove King Moab- 
dar and all the rest of the story to be unhistorieal, and 
reduce Zadig himself to the shadowy condition of a solar 

Voltaire tells us that, disenchanted with life by sun- 
dry domestic misadventures, Zadig withdrew from the 
turmoil of Babylon to a secluded retreat on the banks of 
the Euphrates, where he beguiled his solitude by the 
study of nature. The manifold wonders of the world of 
life had a particular attraction for the lonely student ; 
incessant and patient observation of the plants and ani- 
mals about him sharpened his naturally good powers of 
observation and of reasoning; until, at length, he ac- 
quired a sagacity which enabled him to perceive endless 
minute differences among objects which, to the untutored 
eye, appeared absolutely alike. 

It might have been expected that tMs enlargement of 
the powers of the mind and of its store of natural knowl- 


edge could tend to nothing but tih.e increase of a man's 
own welfare and tlie good of Ms fellow-men. But Zadig 
was fated to experience tie vanity of such expectations. 

One day, walking near a little wood, lie saw, hastening that 
way, one of the Queen's chief eunuchs, followed by a troop of offi- 
cials, who appeared to he in the greatest anxiety, running hither 
and thither like men distraught, in search of some lost treasure. 

u Young man," cried the eunuch, " have you seen the Queen's 
dog?" Zadig answered modestly, u A hitch, I think, not a dog." 
"Quite right," replied the eunuch; and Zadig continued, "A very 
small spaniel who has lately had puppies ; she limps with the left 
foreleg, and has very long ears." " Ah ! you have seen her then," 
said the "breathless eunuch. " No," answered Zadig, " I have not 
seen her; and I really was not aware that the Queen possessed a 

By an odd coincidence, at the very same time, the handsomest 
horse in the King's stables broke away from his groom in the Baby- 
lonian plains. The grand huntsman and all his staff were seeking 
the horse with as much anxiety as the eunuch and his people the 
spaniel ; and the grand huntsman asked Zadig if he had not seen 
the King's horse go that way. 

"A first-rate galloper, small-hoofed, five feet high; tail three 
feet and a half long ; cheek pieces of the bit of twenty-three carat 
gold ; shoes silver? " said Zadig. 

" Which way did he go ? Where is he ? " cried the grand hunts- 

" I have not seen anything of the horse, and I never heard of 
Mm before," replied Zadig. 

The grand huntsman and the chief eunuch made sure that Zadig 
had stolen both the King's horse and the Queen's spaniel, so they 
haled him before the High Court of Desterham, which at once con- 
demned him to the knout, and transportation for life to Siberia, 
But the sentence was hardly pronounced when the lost norse and 
spaniel were found. So the judges were under the painful necessity 
of reconsidering their decision; but they fined Zadig four hundred 
ounces of gold for saying lie had seen that which he had not 

The first thing was to pay the fine ; afterwards Zadig was per- 


mitted to 'open Iris defence to the court, which he did in the follow- 
ing terms : 

" Stars of justice, abysses of knowledge, mirrors of truth, whose 
gravity is as that of lead, whose inflexibility is as that of iron, who 
rival the diamond in clearness, and possess no little affinity with 
gold ; since I am permitted to address your august assembly, I 
swear by Ormuzd that I have never seen the respectable lady dog 
of the queen, nor beheld the sacrosanct horse of the King of Kings. 

"This is what happened. I was taking a walk towards the 
little wood near which I subsequently had the honour to meet the 
venerable chief eunuch and the most illustrious grand huntsman. I 
noticed the track of an animal in the sand, and it was easy to see 
that it was that of a small dog. Long faint streaks upon the little 
elevations of sand between the footmarks convinced me that it was 
a she dog with pendent dugs, showing that she must have had pup- 
pies not many days since. Other scrapings of the sand, which 
always lay close to the marks of the forepaws, indicated that she 
had very long ears; and, as the imprint of one foot was always 
fainter than those of the other three, I judged that the lady dog of 
our august Queen was, if I may venture to say so, a little lame. 

" With respect to the horse of the King of Kings, permit me to 
observe that, wandering through the paths which traverse the 
wood, I noticed the marks of horse-shoes. They were all equi- 
distant. l Ah ! ' said I, ' this is a famous galloper.' In a narrow 
alley, only seven feet wide, the dust upon the trunks of the trees 
was a little disturbed at three feet and a half from the middle of the 
path. * This horse,' said I to myself, 4 had a tail three feet and a 
half long, and, lashing it from one side to the other, he has swept 
away the dust.' Branches of the trees met overhead at the height 
of five feet, and under them I saw newly fallen leaves; so I knew 
that the horse had brushed some of the branches, and was therefore 
five feet high. As to his bit, it must have been made of twenty- 
three carat gold, for he had rubbed it against a stone, which turned 
out to be a touchstone, with the properties of which I am familiar 
by experiment. Lastly, by the marks which his shoes left upon 
pebbles of another kind, I was led to think that his shoes were of 
fine silver." 

All the judges admired Zadig's profound and subtle discern- 
ment ; and the fame of it reached even the King and th Qaeen. 
From the ante-rooms to the presence-chamber, Zadig's name was 


in everybody's mouth ; and, although many of the magi were of 
opinion that he ought to be burnt as a sorcerer, the King com- 
manded that the four hundred ounces of gold which he had been 
fined should be restored to him. So the officers of the court went 
in state with the four hundred ounces ; only they retained three 
hundred and ninety-eight for legal expenses, and their servants ex- 
pected fees. 

Tliose who are interested in learning more of tlie fate- 
ful history of Zadig must turn to the original; we are 
dealing with Mm only as a philosopher, and this brief 
excerpt suffices for the exemplification of the nature of 
his conclusions and of the method by which he arrived 
at them. 

These conclusions may he said to be of the nature of 
retrospective prophecies; though it is perhaps a little 
hazardous to employ phraseology which perilously sug- 
gests a contradiction in terms the word "prophecy" 
being so constantly in ordinary use restricted to " fore- 
telling." Strictly, however, the term prophecy as much 
applies to outspeaking as to foretelling ; and, even in the 
restricted sense of " divination," it is obvious that the 
essence "of the prophetic operation does not lie in its 
backward or forward relation to the course of time, but 
in the fact that it is the apprehension of that which lies 
out of the sphere of immediate knowledge ; the seeing of 
that which to the natural sense of the seer is invisible. 

The foreteller asserts that, at some future tMe^ a 
properly situated observer will witness certain events; 
the clairvoyant declares that, at this present time, certain 
things are to be witnessed a thousand miles away; the 


retrospective prophet (would that there were such a word 
as " backteller ! ") affirms that so many hours or years 
ago, such and such things were to be seen. In all these 
cases, it is only the relation to time which alters the 
process of divination beyond the limits of possible direct 
knowledge remains the same. 

No doubt it was their instinctive recognition of the 
analogy between Zadig's results and those obtained by 
authorised inspiration which inspired the Babylonian 
magi with the desire to burn the philosopher. Zadig 
admitted that he had never either seen or heard of the 
horse of the king or of the spaniel of the queen ; and 
yet he ventured to assert in the most positive manner 
that animals answering to their description did actually 
exist, and ran about the plains of Babylon. If his 
method was good for the divination of the course of 
events ten hours old, why should it not be good for 
those of ten years or ten centuries past ; nay, might it 
not extend to ten thousand years and justify the impi- 
ous in meddling with the traditions of Cannes and the 
fish, and all the sacred foundations of Babylonian cos- 
mogony ? 

But this was not the worst. There was another con- 
sideration which obviously dictated to the more thought- 
ful of the magi the propriety of burning Zadig out of 
hand. His defence was worse than his offence. It 
showed that his mode of divination was fraught with 
danger to magxanisnx in general. Swollen with the 
pride of human ipason, he had ignored the established 


canons of magian lore ; and, trusting to what after all 
was mere carnal common sense, lie professed to lead 
men to a deeper insight into nature than inagian wis- 
dom, with all its lofty antagonism to everything com- 
mon, had ever reached. What, in fact, lay at the 
foundation of all Zadig's arguments but the coarse com- 
monplace assumption, upon which every act of our 
daily lives is based, that we may conclude from an ef- 
fect to the pre-existence of a cause competent to pro- 
duce that effect? 

The tracts were exactly like those which dogs and 
horses leave; therefore they were the effects of such 
animals as causes. The marks at the sides of the fore 
prints of the dog track were exactly such as would be 
produced by long trailing ears ; therefore the dog's long 
ears were the causes of these marks and so on. Noth- 
ing can be more hopelessly vulgar, more unlike the ma- 
jestic development of a system of grandly unintelligible 
conclusions from sublimely inconceivable premisses, such 
as delights the magian heart. In fact, Zadig's method 
was nothing but the method of all mankind. Eetro- 
spective prophecies, far more astonishing for their mi- 
nute accuracy than those of Zadig, are familiar to those 
who have watched the daily life of nomadic people. 

From freshly broken twigs, crushed leaves, disturbed 
pebbles, and imprints hardly discernible by the untrained 
eye, such graduates in the University of Nature will 
divine, not only the fact that a party Las passed that 
way, but its strength, its composition, the course it took, 


and the number of hours or days which have elapsed 
since it passed. But they are able to do this because, 
like Zadig, they perceive endless minute differences 
where untrained eyes discern nothing ; and because the 
unconscious logic of common sense compels them to 
account for these effects by the causes which they know 
to be competent to produce them. 

And such mere methodised savagery was to discover 
the hidden things of nature better than a priori de- 
ductions from the nature of Ormuzd perhaps to give 
a history of the past, in which Cannes would be alto- 
gether ignored ! Decidedly it were better to burn this 
man at once. 

If instinct, or an unwonted use of reason, led Moab- 
dar's magi to this conclusion two or three thousand 
years ago, all that can be said is that subsequent history 
has fully justified them. For the rigorous application 
of Zadig's logic to the results of accurate and long-con- 
tinued observation has founded all those sciences which 
have been termed historical or palsetiological, because 
they are retrospectively prophetic and strive towards 
the reconstruction in human imagination of events which 
have vanished and ceased to be. 

History, in the ordinary acceptation of the word, is 
based upon the interpretation of documentary evidence ; 
and documents would have no evidential value unless 
historians were justified in their assumption that they 
tave come into existence by the operation of causes simi- 
lar to those of which documents are, in our present 


experience, tlie effects. If a written history can be pro- 
duced otherwise than by human agency, or if the man 
who wrote a given document was actuated by other than 
ordinary human motives, such documents are of no more 
evidential value than so many arabesques. 

Archaeology, which takes up the thread of history 
beyond the point at which documentary evidence fails 
us, could have no existence, except for our well-grounded 
confidence that monuments and works of art or artifice, 
have never been produced by causes different in kind 
from those to which they now owe their origin. And 
geology, which traces back the course of history beyond 
the limits of archaeology, could tell us nothing except 
for the assumption that, millions of years ago, water, 
heat, gravitation, friction, animal and vegetable life, 
caused effects of the same kind as they do now. Nay, 
even physical astronomy, in so far as it takes us back 
to the uttermost point of time which palsetiological sci- 
ence can reach, is founded upon the same assumption. 
If the law of gravitation ever failed to be true, even 
to the smallest extent, for that period, the calculations 
of the astronomer have no application. 

The power of prediction, of prospective prophecy, is 
that which is commonly regarded as the great prerogar 
tive of physical science. And truly it is a wonderful 
fact that one can go into a shop and buy for small price 
a book, the "Kautieal Almanac," which will foretell the 
exact position to be occupied by one of Jupiter's moons 
six months hence; nay more, that, if it were worth 


while, tlxe Astronomer Eoyal could furnisli us with as 
infallible a prediction applicable to 1980 or 2980. 

But astronomy is not less remarkable for its power 
of retrospective prophecy. 

Thales, oldest of Greek philosophers, the dates of 
whose birth and death are uncertain, but who flourished 
about 600 B. a, is said to have foretold an eclipse of the 
sun which took place in his time during a battle between 
the Medes and the Lydians. Sir George Airy has writ- 
ten a very learned and interesting memoir* in which 
he proves that such an eclipse was visible in Lydia on the 
afternoon, of the 28th of May in the year 585 B, o. 

No one doubts that, on the day and at the hour 
mentioned by the Astronomer Eoyal, the people of 
Asia Minor saw the face of the sun totally obscured. 
But, though we implicitly believe this retrospective 
prophecy, it is incapable of verification. In the total 
absence of historical records, it is impossible even to 
conceive any means of ascertaining directly whether 
the eclipse of Thales happened or not. All that can 
be said is, that the prospective prophecies of the astron- 
omer are always verified; and that, inasmuch as his 
retrospective prophecies are the result of following back- 
wards, the very same method as that which invariably 
leads to verified results, when it is worked forwards, 
there is as much reason for placing full confidence in 
the one as in the other. Eetrospective prophecy is 

* " On the Eclipses of Agathocles, Thales, and Xerxes," 
Transactions^ vol. oxliii. 


therefore a legitimate function of astronomical science ; 
and if it is legitimate for one science it is legitimate 
for all ; tlie fundamental axiom on winch it rests, the 
constancy of the order of nature, being the common 
foundation of all scientific thought. Indeed, if there 
can "be grades in legitimacy, certain branches of science 
have the advantage over astronomy, in so far as their 
retrospective prophecies are not only susceptible of veri- 
fication, but are sometimes strikingly verified. 

Such a science exists in that application of the prin- 
ciples of biology to the interpretation of the animal 
and vegetable remains imbedded in the rocks which com- 
pose the surface of the globe, which is called Palaeontology. 

At no very distant time, the question whether these 
so-called "fossils" were really the remains of animals 
and plants was hotly disputed. Yery learned persons 
maintained that they were nothing of the kind, but a 
sort of concretion, or crystallisation, which had taken 
place within the stone in which they are found; and 
which simulated the forms of animal and vegetable life, 
just as frost on a window-pane imitates vegetation. At 
the present day, it would probably be impossible to find 
any sane advocate of this opinion ; and the fact is rather 
surprising, that among the people from whom the circle^ 
squarers, perpetual-motioners, flat-earth men and the like, 
are recruited, to say nothing of table-turners and spirit- 
rappers, somebody has not perceived the easy avenue to 
nonsensical notoriety open to any one who will take up 
the good old doctrine, that fossils are all "bwus notice. 


The position would be impregnable, inasmuch as it 
is quite impossible to prove the contrary. If a man 
choose to maintain that a fossil oyster shell, in spite of 
its correspondence, down to every minutest particular, 
with that of an oyster fresh taken out of the sea, was 
never tenanted by a living oyster, but is a mineral con- 
cretion, there is no demonstrating his error. All that 
can be done is to show him that, by a parity of reason- 
ing, he is bound to admit that a heap of oyster shells 
outside a fishmonger's door may also be " sports of na- 
ture," and that a mutton bone in a dust-bin may have 
had the like origin. And when you cannot prove that 
people are wrong, but only that they are absurd, the 
best course is to let them alone. 

The whole fabric of palaeontology, in fact, falls to 
the ground unless we admit the validity of Zadig's great 
principle, that like effects imply like causes; and that 
the process of reasoning from a shell, or a tooth, or a 
bone, to the nature of the animal to which it belonged, 
rests absolutely on the assumption that the likeness of 
this shell, or tooth, or bone, to that of some animal with 
which *we are already acquainted, is such that we are 
justified in inferring a corresponding degree of likeness 
in the rest of the two organisms. It is on this very 
simple principle, and not upon imaginary laws of physio- 
logical correlation, about which, in most cases, we know 
nothing whatever, that the so-called restorations of the 
palaeontologist are based. 

Abundant illustrations of this truth will occur to 


every one who is familar with palaeontology ; none is 
more suitable than the case of the so-called JSelemnites* 
In the early days of the study of f ossils, this name was 
given to certain elongated stony bodies, ending at one 
extremity in a conical point, and truncated at the other, 
which were commonly reputed to be thunderbolts, and 
as such to have descended from the sky. They are 
common enough in some parts of England ; and, in tlie 
condition in which they are ordinarily found, it might 
be difficult to give satisfactory reasons for denying them 
to be merely mineral bodies. 

They appear, in fact, to consist of nothing but con- 
centric layers of carbonate of lime, disposed in sub- 
crystalline fibres, or prisms, perpendicular to the layers. 
Among a great number of specimens of these Belem- 
nites, however, it was soon observed that some showed 
a conical cavity at the blunt end; and, in still better 
preserved specimens, this cavity appeared to be divided 
into chambers by delicate saucer-shaped partitions, situ- 
ated at regular intervals one above the other. 'Now 
there is no mineral body which presents any structure 
comparable to this, and the conclusion suggested itself 
that the Belemnites must be the effects of causes other 
than those which are at work in inorganic nature. On 
close examination, the saucer -shaped partitions were 
proved to be all perforated at one point, and the per- 
forations being situated exactly in the same line, the 
chambers were seen to be traversed by a canal, or si* 
phunde, which thus connected the smallest or apical 


chamber with the largest. There is nothing like this 
in the vegetable world; but an exactly corresponding 
structure is met with in the shells of two kinds of exist- 
ing animals, the pearly Nautilus and the Spirula, and 
only in them. These animals belong to the same di- 
vision the Cephalopoda as the cuttle-fish, the squid, and 
the octopus. But they are the only existing members 
of the group which possess chambered, siphunculated 
shells ; and it is utterly impossible to trace any physio- 
logical connection between the very peculiar structural 
characters of a cephalopod and the presence of a cham- 
bered shell. In fact, the squid has, instead of any such 
shell, a horny "pen," the cuttle-fish has the so-called 
"cuttle -bone," and the octopus has no shell, or, at 
most, a mere rudiment of one. 

Nevertheless, seeing that there is nothing in nature 
at all like the chambered shell of the Belemnite, except 
the shells of the Nautili^s and of the Spirula, it was 
legitimate to prophesy that the animal from which the 
fossil proceeded must have belonged to the group of the 
Cephalopoda. Nautilus and Spirula are both very rare 
animals, but the progress of investigation brought to 
light the singular fact, that, though each has the charac- 
teristic cephalopodous organisation, it is very different 
from the other. The shell of Nautilus is external, that 
of Spirilla internal; Nautilus has four gills, Spwula 
two ; Nautilus has multitudinous tentacles, Spvrula has 
only ten arms beset with horny rimmed suckers ; Spirula, 
like the squids and cuttle-fishes, which it closely re- 


sembles, has a bag of ink which, it squirts out to cover 
its retreat when alarmed ; Nautilus has none. 

]STo amount of physiological reasoning could enable 
any one to say whether the animal which fabricated the 
Belemnite was more like Nautilus, or more like Spirula. 
But the accidental discovery of Belemnites in due con- 
nection with black elongated masses which were cer- 
tainly fossilised ink-bags, inasmuch as the ink could be 
ground up and used for painting as well as if it were 
recent sepia, settled the question; and it became per- 
fectly safe to prophesy that the creature which fabricated 
the Belemnite was a two-gilled cephalopod with suckers 
on its arms, and with all the other essential features 
of our living squids, cuttle-fishes, and SpirulcB. The 
palaeontologist was, by this time, able to speak as confi- 
dently about the animal of the Belemnite, as Zadig 
was respecting the queen's spaniel. He could give a 
very fair description of its external appearance, and even 
enter pretty fully into the details of its internal organi- 
sation, and yet could declare that neither he, nor any 
one else, had ever seen one. And as the queen's spaniel 
was found, so happily has the animal of the Belemnite ; 
a few exceptionally preserved specimens having been 
discovered, which completely verify the retrospective 
prophecy of those who interpreted the facts of the case 
by due .application of the method of Zadig. 

These Belemnites flourished in prodigious abundance 
in the seas of the mesozoic or secondary age of the 
world's geological history; but no trace of them has 


been found in any of the tertiary deposits, and they 
appear to have died out towards the close of the mesozoic 
epoch. The method of Zadig, therefore, applies in full 
force to the events of a period which is immeasurably 
remote, which long preceded the origin of the most 
conspicuous mountain masses of the present world, and 
the deposition, at the bottom of the ocean, of the rocks 
which form the greater part of the soil of our present 
continents. The Euphrates itself, at the mouth of which 
Cannes landed, is a thing of yesterday compared with a 
Belemnite; and even the liberal chronology of Magian 
cosmogony fixes the beginning of the world only at a 
time when other applications of Zadig's method afford 
convincing evidence that, could we have been there to 
see, things would have looked very much as they do 
now. Truly the magi were wise in their generation; 
they foresaw rightly that this pestilent application of 
the principles of common sense, inaugurated by Zadig, 
would be their ruin. 

But it may be said that the method of Zadig, which 
is simple reasoning from analogy, does not account for 
the most striking feats of modern palaeontology the re- 
construction of entire animals from a tooth or perhaps 
a fragment of a bone ; and it may be justly urged that 
Ouvier, the great master of this kind of investigation, 
gave a very different account of. the process which 
yielded such remarkable results. 

Cuvier is not the first man of ability who has failed 
to make his own mental processes clear to himself, and 


he will not be the last. The matter can be easily tested. 
Search the eight volumes of the "Uecherches sur les 
Ossemens f ossiles " from cover to cover, and nothing but 
the application of the method of Zadig -will be found 
in the arguments by which a fragment of a skeleton is 
made to reveal the characters of the animal to which it 

There is one well-known case which may represent 
all. It is an excellent illustration of Ouvier's sagacity, 
and he evidently takes some pride in telling his story 
about it. A split slab of stone arrived from the quarries 
of Hontmartre, the two halves of which contained the 
greater part of the skeleton of a small animal. On care- 
ful examinations of the characters of the teeth and of the 
lower jaw, which happened to be exposed, Ouvier assured 
himself that they presented such a very close resemblance 
to the corresponding parts in the living opossums that he 
at once assigned the fossil to that genus. 

Now the opossums are unlike most mammals in that 
they possess two bones attached to the fore part of the 
pelvis, which are commonly called "marsupial bones." 
The name is a misnomer, originally conferred because it 
was thought that these bones have something to do with 
the support of the pouch, or marsupium, with which 
some, but not all, of the opossums are provided. As a 
matter of fact, they have nothing to do with the support 
of the pouch, and they exist as much in those opossums 
which have no pouches as in those which possess them. 
In truth, no one knows what the use of these bones may 


be, nor has any valid theory of their physiological import 
yet been suggested. And if we have no knowledge of 
the physiological importance of the bones themselves, it 
is obviously absurd to pretend that we are able to give 
physiological reasons why the presence of these bones is 
associated with certain peculiarities of the teeth and of 
the jaws. If any one knows why four molar teeth and 
an inflected angle of the jaw are very generally found 
along with marsupial bones, he has not yet communicated 
that knowledge to the world. 

If, however, Zadig was right in concluding from the 
likeness of the hoof -prints which he observed to a horse's 
that the creature which made them had a tail like that of 
a horse, Ouvier, seeing that the teeth and jaw of his fossil 
were just like those of an opossum, had the same right to 
conclude that the pelvis would also be like an opossum's ; 
and so strong was his conviction that this retrospective 
prophecy, about an animal which he had never seen 
before, and which had been dead and buried for millions 
of years, would be verified, that he went to work upon 
the slab which contained the pelvis in confident expecta- 
tion of finding and laying bare the "marsupial bones," 
to the satisfaction of some persons whom he had invited 
to witness their disinterment. As he says : " Oette op<~ 
ration se fit en presence de quelques personnes , qui j'en 
avais annonc6 d'avance le r&ultat, dans Pintentionde-lenr 
prouver par le fait la justice de nos theories zoologiques ; 
puisque le vrai cachet d'une th^orie est sans contredit la 
qu'elle donne de pr6voir les ph6nom&aes." 


In the " Osseinens f ossiles " Olivier leaves his paper 
just as it first appeared in tlie " Annales du Museum/' 
as " a curious monument of tlie force of zoological laws 
and of tlie use which may be made of them." 

Zoological laws truly, but not physiological laws. If 
one sees a live dog's head, it is extremely probable that 
a dog's tail is not far off, though nobody can say why 
that sort of head and that sort of tail go together ; what 
physiological connection there is between the two. So, 
in the case of the Montmartre fossil, Cuvier, finding a 
thorough opossum's head, concluded that the pelvis also 
would be like an opossum's. But, most assuredly, the 
most advanced physiologist of the present day could 
throw no light on the question why these are associated, 
nor could pretend to affirm that the existence of the one 
is necessarily connected with that of the other. In fact, 
had it so happened that the pelvis of the fossil had been 
originally exposed, while the head lay hidden, the pres- 
ence of the " marsupial "bones," however like they might 
have been to an opossum's, would by no means have 
warranted the prediction that the skull would turn out 
to be that of the opossum. It might just as well have 
been like that of some other Marsupial; or even like 
that of the totally different group of Monotremes, of 
which the only living representatives are the Echidna 
and the Ornithorhynohus. 

For all practical purposes, however, the empirical 
laws of co-ordination of structures, which are embodied 
in the generalisations of morphology, may be confidently 


trusted, if employed with, due caution, to lead to a just 
interpretation of fossil remains ; or, in other words, we 
may look for the verification of the retrospective prophe- 
cies which are based upon them. 

And if this be the case, the late advances which have 
been made in pateontological discovery open out a new 
field for such prophecies. Tor it has been ascertained 
with respect to many groups of animals, that, as we trace 
them back in time, their ancestors gradually cease to ex- 
hibit those special modifications which at present charac- 
terise the type, and more nearly embody the general plan 
of the group to which they belong. 

Thus, in the well-known case of the horse, the toes 
which are suppressed in the living horse are found to be 
more and more complete in the older members of the 
group, until, at the bottom of the Tertiary series of 
America, we find an equine animal which has four toes 
in front and three behind. No remains of the horse 
tribe are at present known from any Mesozoic deposit. 
Yet who can doubt that, whenever a sufficiently exten- 
sive series of lacustrine and fiuviatile beds of that age 
becomes known, the lineage which has been traced thus 
far will be continued by equine quadrupeds with an in- 
creasing number of digits, until the horse type merges in 
the five-toed form towards which these gradations point ? 
But the argument which holds good for the horse, 
holds good, not only for all mammals, but for the whole 
animal world. And as the study of the pedigrees, or 
lines of evolution, to which, at present, we have access. 


brings to light, as it assuredly will do, the laws of that 
process, we shall be able to reason from the facts with 
which the geological record furnishes us to those which 
have hitherto remained, and many of which, perhaps, 
may for ever remain, hidden. The same method of 
reasoning which enables us, when furnished with a frag- 
ment of an extinct animal, to prophesy the character 
which, the whole organism exhibited, will, sooner or 
later, enable us, when we know a few of the later terms 
of a genealogical series, to predict the nature of the 
earlier terms. 

In no very distant future, the method of Zadig, ap- 
plied to a greater body of facts than the present genera- 
tion is fortunate enough to handle, will enable the biolo- 
gist to reconstruct the scheme of life from its beginning, 
and to speak as confidently of the character of long ex- 
tinct living beings, no trace of which has been preserved, 
as Zadig did of the queen's spaniel and the king's 
horse. Let us hope that they may be better rewarded 
for their toil and their sagacity than was the Babylonian 
philosopher ; for perhaps, by that time, the Magi also 
may be reckoned among the members of a forgotten 
Eauna, extinguished in the struggle for existence against 
their great rival, common sense. 



IN the whole history of science there is nothing more 
remarkable than the rapidity of the growth of "biological 
knowledge within the last half-century, and the extent 
of the modification which has thereby been effected in 
some of the fundamental conceptions of the naturalist, 

In the second edition of the "Begne Animal/' pub- 
lished in 1828, Cuvier devotes a special section to the 
" Division of Organised Beings into Animals and Yegc- 
tables," in which the question is treated with that com- 
prehensiveness of knowledge and clear critical judgment 
which characterise his writings, and justify us in regard- 
ing them as representative expressions of the most exten- 
sive, if not the prof oundest, knowledge of his time. He 
tells us that living beings have been subdivided from 
the earliest times into animated beings, which possess 
sense and motion, and inanimated beings, which are 
devoid of these functions, and simply vegetate. 

Although the roots of plants direct themselves 
towards moisture, and their leaves towards air and light, 


although the parts of some plants exhibit oscillating 
movements without any perceptible cause, and the leaves 
of others retract when touched, yet none of these 
movements justify the ascription to plants of perception 
or of will. From the mobility of animals, Cuvier, with 
his characteristic partiality for teleological reasoning, de- 
duces the necessity of the existence in them of an aliment- 
ary cavity, or reservoir of food, whence their nutrition 
may be drawn by the vessels, which are a sort of internal 
roots ; and, in the presence of this alimentary cavity, he 
naturally sees the primary and the most important dis- 
tinction between animals and plants. 

Following out his teleological argument, Cuvier re- 
marks that the organisation of this cavity and its appur- 
tenances must needs vary according to the nature of the 
aliment, and the operations which it has to undergo, 
before it can be converted into substances fitted for 
absorption ; while the atmosphere and the earth supply 
plants with juices ready prepared, and which can be 
absorbed immediately. As the animal body required 
to be independent of heat and of the atmosphere, there 
were no means by which the motion of its fluids could 
be produced by internal causes. Hence arose the second 
great distinctive character of animals, or the circulatory 
system, which is less important than the digestive, since 
it was unnecessary, and therefore is absent, in the more 
simple animals. 

Animals further needed muscles for locomotion and 
nerves for sensibility. Hence, says Cuvier, it was neces- 


sary that the chemical composition of the animal body 
should be more complicated than that of the plant ; and 
it is so, inasmuch as an additional substance, nitrogen, 
enters into it as an essential element ; while, in plants, 
nitrogen is only accidentally joined with the three other 
fundamental constituents of organic beings carbon, hy- 
drogen, and oxygen. Indeed, he afterwards affirms that 
nitrogen is peculiar to animals ; and herein he places 
the third distinction between the animal and the plant. 
The soil and the atmosphere supply plants with water, 
composed of hydrogen and oxygen; air, consisting of 
nitrogen and oxygen; and carbonic acid, containing 
carbon and oxygen. They retain the hydrogen and the 
carbon, exhale the superfluous oxygen, and absorb little 
or no nitrogen. The essential character of vegetable life 
is the exhalation of oxygen, which is effected through 
the agency of light. Animals, on the contrary, derive 
their nourishment either directly or indirectly from 
plants. They get rid of the superfluous hydrogen and 
carbon, and accumulate nitrogen. The relations of plants 
and animals to the atmosphere are therefore inverse. 
The plant withdraws water and carbonic acid from the 
atmosphere, the animal contributes both to it. Respira- 
tion that is, the absorption of oxygen and the exhala- 
tion of carbonic acid is the specially animal function 
of animals, and constitutes their fourth distinctive char- 

Thus wrote Cuvier in 1828. But, in the fourth and 
fifth decades of this century, the greatest and most rapid 


revolution wMcli biological science lias ever undergone 
was effected by the application of the modern micro- 
scope to the investigation, of organic structure ; by the 
introduction of exact and easily manageable methods 
of conducting the chemical analysis of organic com- 
pounds ; and finally, by the employment of instruments 
of precision for the measurement of the physical forces 
which are at work in the living economy. 

That the semi-fluid contents (which we now term 
protoplasm) of the cells of certain plants, such as the 
Charce, are in constant and regular motion, was made 
out by Bonaventura Corti a century ago ; but the fact, 
important as it was, fell into oblivion, and had to be re- 
discovered by Treviranus in 1807. Robert Brown noted 
the more complex motions of the protoplasm in the cells 
of Trcidescantia in 1831 ; and now such movements of 
the living substance of plants are well known to be some 
of the most widely-prevalent phenomena of vegetable life. 

Agardh, and other of the botanists of Cuvier's gen- 
eration, who occupied themselves with the lower plants, 
had observed that, under particular circumstances, the 
contents of the cells of certain water-weeds were set 
free, and moved about with considerable velocity, and 
with all the appearances of spontaneity, as locomotive 
bodies, which, from their similarity to animals of sim- 
ple organisation, were called " zoospores." Even as late 
as 184:5, however, a botanist of Sehleiden's eminence 
dealt very sceptically with these statements; and his 
scepticism was the more justified, since Ehrenberg, in 


Ms elaborate and comprehensive work on the Infusoria, 
had declared the greater number of what are now rec- 
ognised as locomotive plants to be animals. 

At the present day, innumerable plants and free 
plant cells are known to pass the whole or part of their 
lives in an actively locomotive condition, in no wise 
distinguishable from that of one of the simpler animals ; 
and ; while in this condition, their movements are, to all 
appearance, as spontaneous as much the product of 
volition as those of such animals. 

Hence the teleological argument for Cuvier's first 
diagnostic character the presence in animals of an ali- 
mentary cavity, or internal pocket, in which they can 
carry about their nutriment has broken down, so far, 
at least, as his mode of stating it goes. And, with the 
advance of microscopic anatomy, the universality of the 
fact itself among animals has ceased to be predicable. 
Many animals of even complex structure, which live 
parasitically within others, are wholly devoid of an ali- 
mentary cavity. Their food is provided for them, not 
only ready cooked, but ready digested, and the alimentary 
canal, become superfluous, has disappeared. Again, the 
males of most Eotifers have no digestive apparatus ; as 
a German naturalist has remarked, they devote them- 
selves entirely to the " Minnedienst," and are to be reck- 
oned among the few realisations of the Byronic ideal of 
a lover. Finally, amidst the lowest forms of animal 
life, the speck of gelatinous protoplasm, which consti- 
tutes the whole body, has no permanent digestive cav- 


ity or mouth, but takes in its food anywhere ; and di- 
gests, so to speak, all over its body. 

But although Cuvier's leading diagnosis of the ani- 
inal from the plant will not stand a strict test, it remains 
one of the most constant of the distinctive characters 
of animals. And, if we substitute for the possession of 
an alimentary cavity, the power of taking solid nutri- 
ment into the body and there digesting it, the definition 
so changed will cover all animals, except certain para- 
sites, and the few and exceptional cases of non-parasitic 
animals which do not feed at all. On the other hand, 
the definition thus amended will exclude all ordinary 
vegetable organisms. 

Cuvier himself practically gives up his second dis- 
tinctive mark when he admits that it is wanting in the 
simpler animals. 

The third distinction is based on a completely er- 
roneous conception of the chemical differences and re- 
semblances between the constituents of animal and vege- 
table organisms, for which Cuvier is not responsible, as 
it was current among contemporary chemists. It is 
now established that nitrogen is as essential a constitu- 
ent of vegetable as of animal living matter; and that 
the latter is, chemically speaking, just as complicated as 
the former. Starchy substances, cellulose and sugar, 
once supposed to be exclusively confined to plants, are 
now known to be regular and normal products of ani- 
mals. Amylaceous and saccharine substances are largely 
manufactured, even by the highest animals ; cellulose is 


widespread as a constituent of the skeletons of the lower 
animals ; and it is probable that amyloid substances are 
universally present in the animal organism, though not 
in the precise form of starch. 

Moreover, although it remains true that there is an 
inverse relation between the green plant in sunshine 
and the animal, in so far as, under these circumstances, 
the green plant decomposes carbonic acid and exhales 
oxygen, while the animal absorbs oxygen and exhales 
carbonic acid ; yet, the exact investigations of the mod- 
ern chemical investigators of the physiological processes 
of plants have clearly demonstrated the fallacy of at- 
tempting to draw any general distinction between ani- 
mals and vegetables on this ground. In fact, the dif- 
ference vanishes with the sunshine, even in the case of 
the green plant; which, in the dark, absorbs oxygen 
and gives out carbonic acid like any animal.* On the 
other hand, those plants, such as the fungi, which con- 
tain no chlorophyll and are not green, are always, so far 
as respiration is concerned, in the exact position of ani- 
mals. They absorb oxygen and give out carbonic acid. 

Thus, by the progress of knowledge, Ouvier's fourth 
distinction between the animal and the plant has been 
as completely invalidated as the third and second ; and 

* There is every reason to "believe that living plants, like living animals, 
always respire, and, in respiring, absorb oxygen and give off carbonic acid ; 
but, tliat in green plants exposed to daylight or to the electric light, the 
quantity of oxygen evolved in, consequence of the decomposition of carbonic 
acid by a special apparatus which green plants possess exceeds that ab- 
sorbed in the concurrent respiratory process. 


even the first can be retained only in a modified form 
and subject to exceptions. 

But has the advance of biology simply tended to break 
down old distinctions, withont establishing new ones ? 

With a qualification, to be considered presently, the 
answer to this question is undoubtedly in the affirma- 
tive. The famous researches of Schwann and Schlei- 
den in 1837 and the following years, founded the mod- 
ern science of histology, or that branch of anatomy 
which deals with the ultimate visible structure of or- 
ganisms, as revealed by the microscope ; and, from that 
day to this, the rapid improvement of methods of inves- 
tigation, and the energy of a host of accurate observers, 
have given greater and greater breadth and firmness to 
Schwann's great generalisation, that a fundamental unity 
of structure obtains in animals and plants; and that, 
however diverse may be the fabrics, or tissues, of which 
their bodies are composed, all these varied structures 
result from the metamorphosis of morphological units 
(termed cells, in a more general sense than that in 
which the word "cells" was at first employed), which 
are not only similar in animals and in plants respective- 
ly, but present a close resemblance, when those of ani- 
mals and those of plants are compared together. 

The contractility which is the fundamental condi- 
tion of locomotion, has not only been discovered to 
exist far more widely among plants than was formerly 
imagined; but, in plants, the act of contraction has 
been found to be accompanied, as Dr. Burden Sander- 


son's interesting investigations have shown, by a dis- 
turbance of the electrical state of the contractile sub- 
stance, comparable to that which was found by Da Bois 
Eeymond to be a concomitant of the activity of ordi- 
nary muscle in animals. 

A^ain, I know of no test by which the reaction of 
the leaves of the Sundew and of other plants to stimuli, 
so fully and carefully studied by Mr. Darwin, can be 
distinguished from those acts of contraction following 
upon stimuli, which are called " reflex " in animals. 

On each lobe of the bilobed leaf of Venus's fly trap 
(Dioncea muscipulct) are three delicate filaments which 
stand out at right angle from the surface of the leaf. 
Touch one of them with the end of a fine human hair 
and the lobes of the leaf instantly close together* in 
virtue of an act of contraction of part of their sub- 
stance, just as the body of a snail contracts into its shell 
when one of its "horns" is irritated. 

The reflex action of the snail is the result of the 
presence of a nervous system in the animal. A molec- 
ular change takes place in the nerve of the tentacle, 
is propagated to the muscles by which the body is re- 
tracted, and causing them to contract, the act of retrac- 
tion is brought about. Of course the similarity of the 
acts does not necessarily involve the conclusion that the 
mechanism by which they are effected is the same ; "but 
it suggests a suspicion of their identity which needs care- 
ful testing. 

* Darwin, " Insectivorous Plants," p. 289. 


The results of recent inquiries into the structure of 
the nervous system of animals converge towards the con- 
clusion that the nerve fibres, which we have hitherto 
regarded as ultimate elements of nervous tissue, are not 
such, but are simply the visible aggregations of vastly 
more attenuated filaments, the diameter of which dwin- 
dles down to the limits of our present microscopic vision, 
greatly as these have been extended by modern improve- 
ments of the microscope ; and that a nerve is, in its es- 
sence, nothing but a linear tract of specially modified 
protoplasm between two points of an organism one of 
which is able to affect the other by means of the com- 
munication so established. Hence, it is conceivable that 
even the simplest living being may possess a nervous sys- 
tem. And the question whether pknts are provided with 
a nervous system or not, thus acquires a new aspect, and 
presents the histologist and physiologist with a problem 
of extreme difficulty, which must be attacked from a 
new point of view and by the aid of methods which 
have yet to be invented. 

Thus it must be admitted that plants may be con- 
tractile and locomotive; that, while locomotive, their 
movements may have as much appearance of spontane- 
ity as those of the lowest animals; and that many ex- 
hibit actions, comparable to those which are brought 
about by the agency of a nervous system in animals. 
And it must be allowed to be possible that further re- 
search may reveal the existence of something compara- 
ble to a nervous system in plants. So that I know not 


where we can hope to find any absolute distinction be- 
tween animals and plants, unless we return to their mode 
of nutrition, and inquire whether certain differences of 
a more occult character than those imagined to exist by 
Cuvier, and which certainly hold good for the vast ma- 
jority of animals and plants, are of universal application. 

A bean may be supplied with water in which salts 
of ammonia and certain other mineral salts are dissolved 
in due proportion; with atmospheric air containing its 
ordinary minute dose of carbonic acid; and with noth- 
ing else but sunlight and heat. Under these circum- 
stances, unnatural as they are, with proper management, 
the bean will thrust forth its radicle and its plumule; 
the former will grow down into roots, the latter grow up 
into the stem and leaves of a vigorous bean plant ; and 
this plant will, in due time, flower and produce its crop 
of beans, just as if it were grown in the garden or in the 

The weight of the nitrogenous protein compounds, 
of the oily, starchy, saccharine and woody substances 
contained in the full-grown plant and its seeds, will be 
vastly greater than the weight of the same substances 
contained in the bean from which it sprang. But noth- 
ing lias been supplied to the bean save water, carbonic 
acid, ammonia, potash, lime, iron, and the like, in com- 
bination with phosphoric, sulphuric, and other acids. 
Neither protein, nor fat, nor starch, nor sugar,, nor any 
substance in the slightest degree resembling them, has 
formed part of the food of the bean. But the weights 


of the carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus, 
sulphur, and other elementary bodies contained in the 
bean-plant, and in the seeds which it produces, are ex- 
actly equivalent to the weights of the same elements 
which have disappeared from the materials supplied to 
the bean during its growth. "Whence it follows that the 
bean has taken in only the raw materials of its fabric, 
and has manufactured them into bean stuffs. 

The bean has been able to perform this great chem- 
- ical feat by the help of its green colouring matter, or 
chlorophyll ; for it is only the green parts of the plant 
which, under the influence of sunlight, have the mar- 
vellous power of decomposing carbonic acid, setting free 
the oxygen and laying hold of the carbon which it con- 
tains. In fact, the bean obtains two of the absolutely 
indispensable elements of its substance from two distinct 
sources; the watery solution, in which its roots are 
plunged, contains nitrogen but no carbon; the air, to 
which the leaves are exposed, contains carbon, but its 
nitrogen is in the state of a free gas, in which condition 
the bean can make no use of it ; * and the chlorophyll f 
is the apparatus by which the carbon is extracted from 
the atmospheric carbonic acid the leaves being the 
chief laboratories in which this operation is effected. 

* I purposely assume that the air with which the bean is supplied in 
the case stated contains no ammoniacal salts. 

f The recent researches of Pringsheim have raised a host of questions as 
to the exact share taken by chlorophyll in the chemical operations which 
are effected by the green parts of plants. It may be that the chlorophyll 
is only a constant concomitant of the actual deoxidising apparatus. 


The great majority of conspicuous plants are, as 
everybody knows, green ; and this arises from the abun- 
dance of their chlorophyll. The few which contain no 
chlorophyll and are colourless, are unable to extract the 
carbon which they require from atmospheric carbonic 
acid, and lead a parasitic existence upon other plants; 
but it by no means follows, often as the statement has 
been repeated, that the manufacturing power of plants 
depends on their chlorophyll, and its interaction with the 
rays of the sun. On the contrary, it is easily demon- 
strated, as Pasteur first proved, that the lowest fungi, 
devoid of chlorophyll, or of any substitute for it, as they 
are, nevertheless possess the characteristic manufacturing 
powers of plants in a very high degree. Only it is 
necessary that they should be supplied with a different 
kind of raw material; as they cannot extract carbon 
from carbonic acid, they must be furnished with some- 
thing else that contains carbon. Tartaric acid is such 
a substance; and if a single spore of the commonest 
and most troublesome of moulds Pemcillium be sown 
in a saucerf til of water, in which tartrate of ammonia, 
with a small percentage of phosphates and sulphates is 
contained, and kept warm, whether in the dark or ex- 
posed to light, it will, in a short time, give rise to a thick 
crust of mould, which contains many million times the 
weight of the original spore, in protein compounds and 
cellulose. Thus we have a very wide basis of fact for 
the generalisation that plants are essentially character- 
ised by their manufacturing capacity by their power 


of working up mere mineral matters into complex or- 
ganic compounds. 

Contrariwise, there is a no less wide foundation 
for the generalisation that animals, as Cuvier puts it, 
depend directly or indirectly upon plants for the ma- 
terials of their bodies; that is, either they are her- 
bivorous, or they eat other animals which are herbi- 

But for what constituents of their bodies are ani- 
mals thus dependent upon plants? Certainly not for 
their horny matter; nor for chondrin, the proximate 
chemical element of cartilage ; nor for gelatine ; nor for 
syntonin, the constituent of muscle ; nor for their ner- 
vous or biliary substances; nor for their amyloid matters; 
nor, necessarily, for their fats, 

It can be experimentally demonstrated that animals 
can make these for themselves. But that which they 
cannot make, but must, in all known cases, obtain di- 
rectly or indirectly from plants, is the peculiar nitro- 
genous matter, protein. Thus the plant is the ideal 
proletaire of the living world, the worker who pro- 
duces; the animal, the ideal aristocrat, who mostly oc- 
cupies himself in consuming, after the manner of that 
noble representative of the line of Zahdarm, whose epi- 
taph is written in Sartor &esa/rtv,s. 

Here is our last hope of finding a sharp line of de- 
marcation between plants and animals; for, as I have 
already hinted, there is a border territory between the 
two kingdoms, a sort of -no-man's-land, the inhabitants 


of which certainly cannot be discriminated and brought 
to their proper allegiance in any other way. 

Some months ago, Professor Tyndall asked me to 
examine a drop of infusion of hay, placed under an ex- 
cellent and powerful microscope, and to tell him what 
I thought some organisms visible in it were. I looked 
and observed, in the first place, multitudes of Bacteria 
moving about with their ordinary intermittent spasmodic 
wriggles. As to the -vegetable nature of these there is 
now no doubt. Not only does the close resemblance of 
the Bacteria to unquestionable plants, such as the Os- 
cillatoricB, and lower forms of Fungi, justify this con- 
clusion, but the manufacturing test settles the question 
at once. It is only needful to add a minute drop of 
fluid containing Bacteria, to water in which tartrate, 
phosphate, and sulphate of ammonia are dissolved ; and, 
in a very short space of time, the clear fluid becomes 
milky by reason of their prodigious multiplication, 
which, of course, implies the manufacture of living 
Bacterium-stuff out of these merely saline matters. 

But other active organisms, very much larger than 
the Bacteria, attaining in fact the comparatively gigantic 
dimensions of -g-^-g- of an inch or more, incessantly crossed 
the field of view. Each of these had a body shaped like 
a pear, the small end being slightly incurved and pro- 
duced into a long curved filament, or cilium, of extreme 
tenuity. Behind this, from the concave side of the in- 
curvation, proceeded another long cilium, so delicate as 
to be discernible only by the use of the highest powers 


and careful management of the light. In the centre of 
the pear-shaped body a clear round space could occa- 
sionally be discerned, but not always ; and careful watch- 
ing showed that this clear vacuity appeared gradually, 
and then shut up and disappeared suddenly, at regular 
intervals. Such a structure is of common occurrence 
among the lowest plants and animals, and is known as 
a contractile va&uole. 

The little creature thus described sometimes propelled 
itself with great activity, with a curious rolling motion, 
by the lashing of the front cilium, while the second 
cilium trailed behind; sometimes it anchored itself by 
the hinder cilium and was spun round by the working 
of the other, its motions resembling those of an anchor 
buoy in a. heavy sea. Sometimes, when two were in full 
career towards one "another, each would appear dexter- 
ously to get out of the other's way ; sometimes a crowd 
would assemble and jostle one another, with as much 
semblance of individual effort as a spectator on the 
Grands Mulets might observe with a telescope among the 
specks representing men in the valley of Chamounix. 

The spectacle, though always surprising, was not new 
to me. So my reply to the question put to me was, 
that these organisms were what biologists call Jlfonads, 
and though they might be animals, it was also possible 
that they might, like the JBaeteria, be plants. My friend 
received my verdict with an expression which showed a 
sad want of respect for authority. He would as soon 
believe that a sheep was a plant. Naturally piqued by 


this want of faith, I have thought a good deal over the 
matter; and as I still rest in the lame conclusion I 
originally expressed, and must even now confess that I 
cannot certainly say whether this creature is an animal 
or a plant, I think it may be well to state the grounds 
of my hesitation at length. But, in the first place, in 
order that I may conveniently distinguish this " Monad " 
from the multitude of other things which go by the 
same designation, I must give it a name of its own. I 
think- (though, for .reasons which need not be stated at 
present, I am not quite sure) that it is identical with the 
species MOMS lens, as defined by the eminent French 
microscopist Dujardin, though his magnifying power was 
probably insufficient to enable him to see that it is curi- 
ously like a much larger form of monad which he has 
named Hetwomita. I shall, therefore, call it not Monas, 
but Heteromita lens. 

I have been unable to devote to my Heteromita the 
prolonged study needful to work out its whole history, 
which would involve weeks, or it may be months, of 
unremitting attention. But I the less regret this cir- 
cumstance, as some remarkable observations recently 
published by Messrs. Dallinger and Drysdale* on certain 
Monads, relate, in part, to a form so similar to my Set- 
eromita lens> that the history of the one may be used to 
illustrate that of the other. These most patient and 

* " Researches in the Life-history of a Cercomonad ; a Lesson in Bio- 
genesis ; " and " Further [Researches in the Life-history of the Monads."- 
" Monthly Microscopical Journal," 1873, 


painstaking observers, who employed tlie highest attain- 
able powers of the microscope and, relieving one another, 
kept watch day and night over the same individual mo- 
nads, have been enabled to trace out the whole history 
of their Heteromita; which they found in infusions of 
the heads of fishes of the Cod tribe. 

Of the four monads described and figured by these 
investigators, one, as I have said, very closely resembles 
Heteromita lens in every particular, except that it has 
a separately distinguishable central particle or " nucleus," 
which is not certainly to be made out in Heteromita, 
lens ; and that nothing is said by Messrs. Dallinger and 
Drysdale of the existence of a contractile vacuole in this 
monad, though they describe it in another. 

Their Heteromita^ however, multiplied rapidly by fis- 
sion. Sometimes a transverse constriction appeared ; the 
hinder half developed a new cilium, and the hinder 
cilium gradually split from its base to its free end, until 
it was divided into two; a process which, considering 
the fact that this fine filament cannot be much more 
than ! o <fo o o of an inch in diameter, is wonderful enough. 
The constriction of the body extended Inwards until the 
two portions were united by a narrow isthmus ; finally, 
they separated and each swam away by itself, a com- 
plete Heteromita^ provided with its two cilia. Some- 
times the constriction took a longitudinal direction, with 
the same ultimate result. In each case the process occu- 
pied not more than six or seven minutes. At this rate, 
a single Heteromita would give rise to a thousand like 


itself in the course of an hour, to about a million in 
two hours, and to a number greater than the generally 
assumed number of human beings now living in the 
world in three hours; or, if we give each Heteromita 
an hour's enjoyment of individual existence, the same 
result will be obtained in about a day. The apparent 
suddenness of the appearance of multitudes of such or- 
ganisms as these, in any nutritive fluid to which one 
obtains access, is thus easily explained. 

During these processes of multiplication by fission, 
the Heteromita remains active; but sometimes another 
mode of fission occurs. The body becomes rounded and 
quiescent, or nearly so ; and, while in this resting state, 
divides into two portions, each of which is rapidly con- 
verted into an active Heteromita. 

A still more remarkable phenomenon is that kind of 
multiplication which is preceded by the union of two 
monads, by a process which is termed conjugation. Two 
active JSeteromitce become applied to one another, and 
then slowly and gradually coalesce into one body. The 
two nuclei run into one; and the mass resulting from 
the conjugation of the two JETeteromitce, thus fused to- 
gether, has a triangular form. The two pairs of cilia are 
to be seen, for some time, at two of the angles, which 
answer to the small ends of the conjoined monads ; but 
they ultimately vanish, and the twin organism, in which 
all visible traces of organisation, have disappeared, falls 
into a state of rest. Sudden wave-like movements of its 
substance next occur ; and, in a short time, the aDices 


of the triangular mass burst, and give exit to a dense 
yellowish, glairy fluid, filled with minute granules. This 
process, which, it will be observed, involves the actual 
confluence and mixture of the substance of two distinct 
organisms, is effected in the space of about two hours. 

The authors whom I quote say that they "cannot 
express" the excessive minuteness of the granules in 
question, and they estimate their diameter at less than 
FTflVffTT ^ an i nc h. Under the highest powers of the 
microscope at present applicable such specks are hardly 
discernible. Nevertheless, particles of this size are mas- 
sive when compared to physical molecules ; whence there 
is no reason to doubt that each, small as it is, may have a 
molecular structure sufficiently complex to give rise to 
the phenomena of life. And, as a matter of fact, by 
patient watching of the place at which these infinitesimal 
living particles were discharged, our observers assured 
themselves of their growth and development into new 
monads. These, in about four hours from their being 
set free, had attained a sixth of the length of the parent, 
with the characteristic cilia, though at first they were 
quite motionless; and, in four hours more, they had 
attained the dimensions and exhibited all the activity of 
the adult. These inconceivably minute particles are 
therefore the germs of the Heteromita; and from the 
dimensions of these germs it is easily shown that the 
body formed by conjugation may, at a low estimate, have 
given exit to thirty thousand of them; a result of a 
matrimonial process whereby the contracting parties, 


without a metaphor, "become one flesh," enough to 
make a Malthnsian despair of the future of the Universe. 

I am not aware that the investigators from whom 
I have borrowed this history have endeavoured to ascer- 
tain whether their monads take solid nutriment or not ; 
so that though they help us very much to fill up the 
blanks in the history of my Heteromita^ their observa- 
tions throw no light on the problem we are trying to 
solve Is it an animal or is it a plant? 

Undoubtedly it is possible to bring forward very 
strong arguments in favour of regarding Heteromita as a 

For example, there is a Fungus, an obscure and 
almost microscopic mould, termed Peronospora infes- 
tans. Like many other Fungi, the Peronosporce are 
parasitic upon other plants ; and this particular Perono- 
spora happens to have attained much notoriety and po- 
litical importance, in a way not without a parallel in the 
career of notorious politicians, namely, by reason of the 
frightful mischief it has done to mankind. For it is this 
Fimgm which is the cause of the potato disease ; and, 
therefore, Peronospora infestans (doubtless of exclu- 
sively Saxon origin, though not accurately known to be 
so) brought about the Irish famine. The plants afflicted 
with the malady are found to be infested by a mould, 
consisting of fine tubular filaments, termed hyphen, which 
burrow through the substance of the potato plant, and 
appropriate to themselves the substance of their host; 
while, at the same time, directly or indirectly, they set 


up chemical changes by which even its woody framework 
becomes blackened, sodden, and withered. 

. In structure, however, the Peronospora is as much a 
mould as the common PenwilUum ; and just as the 
Penicillium multiplies by the breaking up of its hyphse 
into separate rounded bodies, the spores ; so, in the 
Peronospora, certain of the hyphse grow out into the 
air through the interstices of the superficial cells of the 
potato plant, and develop spores. Each of these hyphss 
usually gives off several branches. The ends of the 
branches dilate and become closed sacs, which eventually 
drop off as spores. The spores falling on some part of 
the same potato plant, or carried by the wind to another, 
may at once germinate, throwing out tubular prolonga- 
tions which become hyphse, and burrow into the sub- 
stance of the plant attacked. But, more commonly, the 
contents of the spore divide into six or eight separate 
portions. The coat of the spore gives way, and each 
portion then emerges as an independent organism, which 
has the shape of a bean, rather narrower at one end than, 
the other, convex on one side, and depressed or concave 
on the opposite. From the depression, two long and 
delicate cilia proceed, one shorter than the other, and 
directed forwards. Close to the origin of these cilia, in. 
the substance of the body, is a regularly pulsating, con- 
tractile vacuole. The shorter cilium vibrates actively, 
and effects the locomotion of the organism, while the 
other trails behind ; the whole body rolling on its axis 
with its pointed end forwards. 


The eminent botanist, De Bary, -who was not think- 
ing of our problem, tells us 5 in describing the move- 
ments of these "Zoospores," that, as they swim, about, 
"Foreign bodies are carefully avoided, and the whole 
movement has a deceptive likeness to the voluntary 
changes of place which are observed in microscopic an- 

After swarming about in this way in the moisture on 
the surface of a leaf or stem (which, film though it may 
be, is an ocean to such a fish) for half an hour, more or 
less, the movement of the zoospore becomes slower, and 
is limited to a slow turning upon its axis, without change 
of place. It then becomes quite quiet, the cilia dis- 
appear, it assumes a spherical form, and surrounds itself 
with a distinct, though delicate, membranous coat. A 
protuberance then grows out from one side of the 
sphere, and rapidly increasing in length, assumes the 
character of a hypha. The latter penetrates into the 
substance of the potato plant, either by entering a sto- 
mate, or by boring through the wall of an epidermic cell, 
and ramifies, as a mycelium, in the substance of the 
plant, destroying the tissues with which it comes in con- 
tact. As these processes of multiplication take place 
very rapidly, millions of spores are soon set free from a 
single infested plant ; and, from their minuteness, they 
are readily transported by the gentlest breeze. Since, 
again, the zoospores set free from each spore, in virtue 
of their powers of locomotion, swiftly disperse them- 
selves over the surface, it is no wonder that the infec- 


tion, once started, soon spreads from field to field, and 
extends its ravages over a whole country. 

However, it does not enter into my present plan to 
treat of the potato disease, instructively as its history 
bears upon that of other epidemics ; and I have selected 
the case of the Peronospora simply because it affords an 
example of an organism, which, in one stage of its exist- 
ence, is truly a "Monad," indistinguishable by any 
important character from our S^eteromita^ and extraor- 
dinarily like it in some respects. And yet this " Monad " 
can be traced, step by step, through the series of meta- 
morphoses which I have described, until it assumes the 
features of an organism, which is as much a plant as is 
an oak or an elm. 

Moreover, it would be possible to pursue the analogy 
farther. Under certain circumstances, a process of con- 
jugation takes place in the Peronospora. Two separate 
portions of its protoplasm become fused together, sur- 
round themselves with a thick coat, and give rise to a 
sort of vegetable egg called an oospore. After a period 
of rest, the contents of the oospore break up into a num- 
ber of zoospores like those already described, each of 
which, after a period of activity, germinates in the ordi- 
nary way. This process obviously corresponds with the 
conjugation and subsequent setting free of germs in the 

But it may be said that the Peronospora is, after all, 
a questionable sort of plant ; that it seems to be wanting 
in the manufacturing power, selected as the main dis- 


tinctive character of vegetable life ; or, at any rate, that 
there is no proof that it does not get its protein matter 
ready made from the potato plant. 

Let us ? therefore, take a case which is not open to 
these objections. 

There are some small plants known to botanists as 
members of the genus ColeocJicete, which, without being 
truly parasitic, grow upon certain water-weeds, as lichens 
grow upon trees. The little plant has the form of an 
elegant green star, the branching arms of which are 
divided into cells. Its greenness is due to its chlorophyll, 
and it undoubtedly has the manufacturing power in full 
degree, decomposing carbonic acid and setting oxygen 
free, under the influence of sunlight. But the proto- 
plasmic contents of some of the cells of which the plant 
is made up occasionally divide, by a method similar to 
that which effects the division of the contents of the 
JPeronospora spore; and the severed portions are then 
set free as active monad-like zoospores. Each is oval 
and is provided at one extremity with two long active 
cilia. Propelled by these, it swims about for a longer or 
shorter time, but at length comes to a state of rest and 
gradually grows into a Coleoehcete. Moreover, as in the 
feronospora, conjugation may take place and result in 
an oospore; the contents of which divide and are set 
free as monadiform germs. 

If the whole history of the zoospores of Peronospora 
and of ColeocJicete were unknown, they would undoubt- 
edly be classed among " Monads " with the same right 


as Heteromita / why then may not Heteromita be a 
plant, even though the cycle of forms through which it 
passes shows no terms quite so complex as those which 
occur in Peronospora and Coleochcete? And, in fact, 
there are some green organisms, in every respect charac- 
teristically plants, such as Chlamydomonas, and the com- 
mon Vofoo&, or so-called "Globe animalcule," which 
run through a cycle of forms of just the same simple 
character as those of Heteromita. 

The name of Cklamydomonas is applied to certain 
microscopic green bodies, each of which consists of a 
protoplasmic central substance invested by a structureless 
sac. The latter contains cellulose, as in ordinary plants ; 
and the chlorophyll which gives the green colour enables 
the Ohlamydomonas to decompose carbonic acid and fix 
carbon as they do, Two long cilia protrude through the 
cell -wall, and effect the rapid locomotion of this 
" monad," which, in all respects except its mobility, is 
characteristically a plant. Under ordinary circumstances, 
the CKLamydomonas multiplies by simple fission, each 
splitting into two or into four parts, which separate and 
become independent organisms. Sometimes, however, 
the Ghlamydomonas divides into eight parts, each of 
which is provided with four instead of two cilia. These 
u zoospores" conjugate in pairs, and give rise to quies- 
cent bodies, which multiply by division, and eventually 
pass into the active state. 

Thus, so far as outward form and the general char- 
acter of the cycle of modifications, through which the 


organism passes in the course of its life, are concerned, 
the resemblance between Chlamydomonas and Het&ro- 
mita is of the closest description. And on the face of 
the matter there is no ground for refusing to admit that 
Heteromita may be related to Chlamydomonas, as the 
colourless fungus is to the green alga. Volvox may be 
compared to a hollow sphere, the wall of which is made 
up of coherent Ohlamydomonads ; and which progresses 
with a rotating motion effected by the paddling of the 
multitudinous pairs of cilia which project from its sur- 
face. Each F0to0a?-monad, moreover, possesses a red 
pigment spot, like the simplest form of eye known 
among animals. The methods of fissive multiplication 
and of conjugation observed in the monads of this loco- 
motive globe are essentially similar to those observed in 
Chlamydomonas / and, though a hard battle has been 
fought over it, Yolwx is now finally surrendered to the 

Thus there is really no reason why Heteromita may 
not be a plant ; and this conclusion would be very sat- 
isfactory, if it were not equally easy to show that there 
is really no reason why it should not be an animal. 
For there are numerous organisms presenting the closest 
resemblance to Heteromita^ and, like it, grouped under 
the general name of "Monads," which, nevertheless, 
can be observed to take in solid nutriment, and which, 
therefore, have a virtual, if not an actual, month and 
digestive cavity, and thus come under Ouvier's defini- 
tion of an animal. Numerous forms of such animals 


have been described by Ekrenberg, Dujardin, H. James 
Clark, and other writers on the Infusoria. Indeed, in 
another infusion of hay in which my Heteromita lens 
occurred, there were innumerable infusorial animalcules 
belonging to the well-known species Colpoda cucullus* 

Full-sized specimens of this animalcule attain a length 
of between -^^ or ^-^ of an inch, so that it may have 
ten times the length and a thousand times the mass of 
a Heteromita. In shape, it is not altogether unlike Het- 
eromita. The small end, however, is not produced into 
one long cilium, but the general surface of the body is 
covered with small actively vibrating ciliary organs, 
which are only longest at the small end. At the point 
which answers to that from which the two cilia arise in 
Heteromita, there is a conical depression, the mouth; 
and, in young specimens, a tapering filament, which re- 
minds one of the posterior cilium of Heteromita., pro- 
jects from this region. 

The body consists of a soft granular protoplasmic 
substance, the middle of which is occupied by a large 
oval mass called the " nucleus ; " while, at its hinder 
end, is a " contractile vacuole," conspicuous by its reg- 
ular rhythmic appearances and disappearances. Obvi- 
ously, although the Colpoda is not a monad, it differs 
from one only in subordinate details. Moreover, tinder 
certain conditions, it becomes quiescent, incloses itself 
in a delicate case or cyst, and then divides into two, 

* Excellently described by Stein, almost all of whose statements I 
have verified. 


four, or more portions, wMch are eventually set free and 
swim about as active Colpodce. 

But this creature is an unmistakable animal, and f ull- 
sized OolpodcB may be fed as easily as one feeds chickens. 
It is only needful to diffuse very finely ground carmine 
through the water in which they live, and, in a very 
short time, the bodies of the Colpodce are stuffed with 
the deeply-coloured granules of the pigment. 

And if this were not sufficient evidence of the ani- 
mality of Colpoda, there comes the fact that it is even 
more similar to another well-known animalcule, Para- 
mcecium, than it is to a monad. But Paramceoiwn is 
so huge a creature compared with those hitherto dis- 
cussed it reaches -^ of an inch or more in length 
that there is no difficulty in making out its organisa- 
tion in detail j and in proving that it is not only an ani- 
mal, but that it is an animal which possesses a somewhat 
complicated organisation. For example, the surface layer 
of its body is different in structure from the deeper 
parts. There are two contractile vacuoles, from each 
of which radiates a system of vessel-like canals; and 
not only is there a conical depression continuous with 
a tube, which serve as mouth and gullet, but the food in- 
gested takes a definite course, and refuse is rejected from 
a definite region. Nothing is easier than to feed these 
animals, and to watch the particles of indigo or carmine 
accumulate at the lower end of the gullet. From this 
they gradually project, surrounded by a ball of water, 
which at length passes with a jerk, oddly simulating 


a gulp, into the pulpy central substance of tlie body, 
there to circulate up one side and down the other, until 
its contents are digested and assimilated. Neverthe- 
less, this complex animal multiplies by division, as the 
monad does, and, like the monad, undergoes conjuga- 
tion. It stands in the same relation to Heteromita on 
the animal side, as Coleochczte does on the plant side. 
Start from either, and such an insensible series of gra- 
dations leads to the monad that it is impossible to say 
at any stage of the progress here the line between 
the animal and the plant must be drawn. 

There is reason to think that certain organisms which 
pass through a monad stage of existence, such as the 
MywomyceteS) are, at one time of their lives, dependent 
upon external sources for their protein matter, or are 
animals ; and, at another period, manufacture it, or are 
plants. And seeing that the whole progress of modern 
investigation is in favour of the doctrine of continuity, 
it is a fair and probable speculation though only a 
speculation that, as there are some plants which can 
manufacture protein out of such apparently intractable 
mineral matters as carbonic acid, water, nitrate of am- 
monia, metallic and earthy salts ; while others need to 
be supplied with their carbon and nitrogen in the some- 
what less raw form of tartrate of ammonia and allied 
compounds; so there may be yet others, as is possibly 
the case with the true parasitic plants, which can only 
manage to put together materials still better prepared 
still more nearly approximated to protein until we 


arrive at such organisms as the Psorospermm and the 
Panhistopbyton, which are as mucli animal as vegetable 
in structure, but are animal in their dependence on other 
organisms for their food. 

The singular circumstance observed by Meyer, that 
the Torula of yeast, though an indubitable plant, still 
flourishes most vigorously when supplied with the com- 
plex nitrogenous substance, pepsin ; the probability that 
the Peronospora is nourished directly by the protoplasm 
of the potato-plant ; and the wonderful facts which have 
recently been brought to light respecting insectivorous 
plants, all favour this view ; and tend to the conclusion 
that the difference between animal and plant is one 
of degree rather than of kind; and that the problem 
whether, in a given case, an organism is an animal or 
a plant, may be essentially insoluble. 



IN all the commentaries upon the "Historia Ani- 
malium" which I have met with, Aristotle's express 
and repeated statement, that the heart of man and the 
largest animals contains only three cavities, is noted as 
a remarkable error. Even Cuvier, who had a great 
advantage over most of the commentators in his famili- 
arity with the subject of Aristotle's description, and 
whose habitual caution and moderation seem to desert 
him when the opportunity of panegyrising the philoso- 
pher presents itself, is betrayed into something lite a 
sneer on this topic. 

"Da reste il n'attribue cet organe que trois cavit6s, errenr qui 
prouve an moins qu'il en avait regard^ la structure." * 

To which remark, what follows will, I think, justify 
the reply, that it "prouve au moins" that Cuvier had 
not given ordinary attention, to say nothing of the care- 
ful study which they deserve, to sundry passages in the 

* "Eistoire des Sciences Naturelles," L p, 152. 


first and the third books of the " Historia " which I 
proceed to lay before the reader. 

For convenience of reference these passages are 
marked A, J? ? C, etc.* 

Book i. 17. (A) " The heart has three cavities, it lies above the 
lung on the division of the windpipe, and has a fatty and thick 
membrane where it is united with the great vein and the aorta. It 
lies upon the aorta, with its point down the chest, in all animals 
that have a chest. In all, alike in those that have a chest and in 
those that have none, the foremost part of it is the apex. This is 
often overlooked through the turning upside down of the dissection. 
The rounded end of the heart is uppermost, the pointed end of it is 
largely fleshy and thick, and in its cavities there are tendons. In 
other animals which have a chest the heart lies in the middle of the 
chest ; in men, more to the left side, between the nipples, a little in- 
clined to the left nipple in the upper part of the chest. The heart 
is not large, and its general form is not elongated but rounded, ex- 
cept that the apex is produced into a point. 

(#) " It has, as already stated, three cavities, the largest of them 
is on the right, the smallest on the left, the middle-sized one in the 
middle; they have all, also the two small ones, passages (rerpiififaas) 
towards the lung, very evidently as respects one of the cavities. 
In the region of the union [with the great vein and the aorta] the 
largest cavity is connected with the largest vein (near which is 
the mesentery) ; the middle cavity with the aorta. 

(0) " Canals (n6poi) from the heart pass to the lung and divide 
in the same fashion as the windpipe does, closely accompanying 
those from the windpipe through the whole lung. The canals from 
the heart are uppermost. 

(D) "JSTo canal is common [to the branches of the windpipe and 
those of the vein] (ovdelg <$' kcrl Kowbg rcrfpof) but through those parts 

* The text I have followed is that given by Aubert and "Wimmer, 
" Aristotolcs Thierkunde : kritiscb, berichtigter Text mit deutschen ITcbcr- 
sctzung ; " but I have tried here and there to bring the English version 
rather closer to the original than the German translation, excellent as it is, 
seems to me to be. 


of them which are in contact (TJJV evvatpiv) the air passes in and they 
[the 7r6poi\ carry it to the heart. 

(E) "One of the canals leads to the right cavity, the other to 
the left." 

(F) " Of all the viscera, the heart alone contains "blood [in itself]. 
The lung contains blood, not in itself but in the veins, the heart in 
itself ; for in each of the cavities there is blood ; the thinnest is in 
the middle cavity." 

Book iii. 3. (G-) "Two veins lie in the thorax alongside the 
spine, on its inner face; the larger more forwards, the smaller 
behind; the larger more to the right, the smaller, which some call 
aorta (on account of the tendinous part of it seen in dead bodies), 
to the left. These take their origin from the heart; they pass 
entire, preserving the nature of veins, through the other viscera 
that they reach ; while the heart is rather a part of them, and more 
especially of the anterior and larger one, which is continued into 
veins above and below, while between these is the heart. 

(H) " All hearts contain cavities, but, in those of very small 
animals, the largest [cavity] is hardly visible, those of middling 
size have another, and the biggest all three. 

(7) "The point of the heart is directed forwards, as was men- 
tioned at first; the largest cavity to the right and upper side of it, 
the smallest to the left, and the middle-sized one between these; 
both of these are much smaller than the largest. 

(JT) "They are all connected by passages (awTerp^vrai) with 
the lung, but, on account of the smallness of the canals, this is 
obscure except in one. 

() "The great vein proceeds from the largest cavity which 
lies upwards and to the right; next through the hollow middle part 
(Sta rov KolTwv rov fjtlffov) it becomes vein again, this cavity being a 
part of the vein in which the blood stagnates. 

(M ) " The aorta [proceeds from] the middle [cavity], but not in 
the same, way, for it is connected [with the middle cavity] by a 
much more narrow tube (cbptyya). 

(N) " The [great] vein extends through the heart, towards the 
aorta from the heart. 

(0) " The great vein is membranous like skin, the aorta nar- 
rower than it and very tendinous, and as it extends towards the head 
and the lower parts it becomes narrow and altogether tendinous. 

(P) " In the first place, a part of the great vein extends up- 


wards from the heart towards the lung and the attachment of the 
aorta, the vein being large and nndivided. It divides into two 
parts, the one to the lung, the other to the spine and the lowest 
vertebra of the neck. 

(Q) "The vein which extends to the lung first divides into two 
parts for the two halves of it and then extends alongside each tube 
(cbpLyya) and each passage (rpj^a), the larger beside the larger and 
the smaller beside the smaller, so that no part [of the lung] can be 
found from which a passage (rp^a) and a vein are absent. The 
terminations are invisible on account of their minuteness, but the 
whole lung appears full of blood. The canals from the vein lie 
above the tubes given, off from the windpipe." 

The key to the whole of the foregoing description of 
the heart lies in the passages (ff) and (Z). They prove 
that Aristotle, like Galen, five hundred years afterwards, 
and like the great majority of the old Greek anato- 
mists, did not reckon what we call the right auricle as 
a constituent of the heart at all, but as a hollow part, 
or dilatation, of the a great vein." Aristotle is careful 
to state that his observations were conducted on suffo- 
cated animals ; and if any one will lay open the thorax 
of a dog or a rabbit, which has been killed with chlo- 
roform, in such a manner as to avoid wounding any 
important vessel, he will at once see why Aristotle 
adopted this view. 

For, as the subjoined figure (p. 191) shows, the vena 
cava inferior (J), the right auricle (J?.&.), and the vena 
cava superior and innominate vein ( V.I.) distended with 
blood seem to form one continuous column, to which 
the heart is attached as a sort of appendage. This 
column is, as Aristotle says, vein above (a) and vein 
below (5), the upper and the lower divisions being con- 





A dog having been killed by chloroform, enough of the right wall of 
the thorax was removed, without any notable bleeding, to expose the 
thoracic viscera. A carefully measured outline sketch of the parts in 
situ was then made, and on dissection, twenty-four hours afterwards, 
the necessary anatomical details were added. The woodcut is a faith- 
fully reduced copy of the drawing thus constructed ; and it represents 
the relations of the heart and great vessels as Aristotle saw them in a 
suffocated animal. 

All but the inner lobe of the right lung has been removed ; as well as the 
right half of the pericardium and the right walls of the right auricle 
and ventricle. It must be remembered that the thin transparent peri- 
cardial membrane appears nothing like so distinct in nature, 

a.6., Aristotle's "great vein " ; F./., right vena innominata and vena cava 
superior ; 5, the inferior vena cava ; J2.a., the " hollow middle " part of 
the great vein or the right auricle; R.v', the prolongation of the cavity 
of the right ventricle JR.v towards the pulmonary artery ; /r, one of the 
tricuspid valves ; Pc r the pericardium ; Lsv, superior intercostal vein ; 
As, vena azygos; P. A., right pulmonary artery; J?r, right bronchus; 
Z, inner lobe of the right lung ; 5", oesophagus ; Ao, descending aorta ; 
H, liver, in section, with hepatic vein, vena portse, and gall-bladder, #6, 
separated by the diaphragm, also seen in section, from the thoracic cavity. 


nected Sta rov /coZAou rov jiecrov or by means of the 
intervening cavity or chamber (B.a.} which is tliat 
winch we call the right auricle. 

But when, from the four cavities of the heart rec- 
ognised by us moderns, one is excluded, there remain 
three which is just what Aristotle says. The solu- 
tion of the difficulty is, in fact, as absurdly simple as 
that presented by the egg of Columbus ; and any error 
there may be, is not to be put down to Aristotle, but 
to that inability to comprehend that the same fact may 
be accurately described in different ways, which is the 
special characteristic of the.commentatorial mind. That 
the three cavities mentioned by Aristotle are just those 
which remain if the right auricle is omitted, is plain 
enough from what is said in (j?), (G\ (E), (/), and (Z). 
For, in a suffocated animal, the "right cavity" which is 
directly connected with the great vein, and is obviously 
the right ventricle, being distended with blood, will 
look much larger than the middle cavity, which, since 
it gives rise to the aorta, can only be the left ventri- 
cle. And this, again, will appear larger than the 
thin and collapsed left auricle, which must be Aris- 
totle's left cavity, inasmuch as this cavity is said to 
be connected by Tropoi with the lung. The reason why 
Aristotle considered the left auricle to be a part of 
the heart, while he merged the right auricle in the 
great vein, is, obviously, the small relative size of the 
venous trunks and their sharper demarcation from the 
auricle. Galen, however, perhaps more consistently, re- 


garded the left auricle also as a mere part of the " arte- 
ria venosa." The canal which leads from the right cav- 
ity of the heart to the lung (or, as Aristotle puts it (E), 
from the lung to the heart) is, without doubt, the pul- 
monary artery. But it may be said that, in this case, 
Aristotle contradicts himself, inasmuch as in (P) and 
(Q) a vessel, which is obviously the pulmonary artery, is 
described as a branch of the great vein. However, this 
difficulty also disappears, if we reflect that, in Aristotle's 
way of looking at the matter, the line of demarcation 
between the great vein and the heart coincides with the 
right auriculo-ventricular aperture; and that, inasmuch 
as the conical prolongation of the right ventricle which 
leads to the pulmonary artery (R.v r in the Figure), lies 
close in front of the auricle, its base may very easily (as 
the figure shows) be regarded as a part of the general 
opening of the great vein into the right ventricle. In 
fact, it is clear that Aristotle, having failed to notice the 
valves of the heart, did not distinguish the part of the 
right ventricle from which the pulmonary artery arises 
(7?.i/) from the proper trunk of the artery on the one 
hand, and from the right auricle (J?.a.) on the other. 
Thus the root, as we may call it, of the pulmonary artery 
and the right auricle, taken together, are spoken of as 
the " part of the great vein which extends upwards " 
(jP); and, as the vena azygos (Az) was one branch of 
this, so the " vein to the lung " was regarded as another 
branch of it. But the latter branch, being given off 
close to the connection of the great vein with the ven- 


tricle, was also counted as one of the two iropot, by which, 
the " heart " (that is to say the right ventricle, the left 
yentricle, and the left auricle of our nomenclature) com- 
municates with the lung. 

The only other difficulty that I observe is connected 
with (JT). If Aristotle intended by this to affirm that 
the middle cavity (the left ventricle), like the other two, 
is directly connected with the lung by a Tropo?, he would 
be in error. But he has excluded this interpretation of 
his words by (E), in which the number and relations of 
the canals, the existence of which he admits, are distinct- 
ly defined. I can only imagine then, that, so far as this 
passage applies to the left ventricle, it merely refers to 
the indirect communication of that cavity with the ves- 
sels of the lungs, through the left auricle. 

On this evidence I submit that there is no escape 
from the conclusion that, instead of having committed a 
gross blunder, Aristotle has given a description of the 
heart which, so far as it goes, is remarkably accurate. 
He is in error only in regard to the differences which 
he imagines to exist between large and small hearts 

Ouvier (who has been followed by other commenta- 
tors) ascribes another error to Aristotle: 

"Aristoto supposo quo la tracMc-art^ro so prolonge jusgu'au 
coexir, ot somblo croiro, en consilience, quo Pair y p<n6tro (I c. 
p. 152)." 

Upon what foundation Cuvicr rested the first of these 
two assertions, I am at a loss to divine. As a matter of 


fact, it will appear from the following excerpts tliat Aris- 
totle gives an account of the structure of tlie lungs which 
is almost as good as that of the heart, and that it contains 
nothing about any prolongation of the windpipe to the 

" "Within, the neck lie what is called the oesophagus (so named 
on account of its length and its narrowness) and the windpipe 
(apTijpia). The position of the windpipe in all animals that have 
one, is in front of the ossophagas. All animals which possess a lung 
have a windpipe. The windpipe is of a cartilaginous nature and is 
exsanguine, but is surrounded by many little veins. . . . 

"It goes downwards towards the middle of the lung, and then, 
divides for each of the halves of the lung. In all animals that pos- 
sess one, the lung is divided into two parts ; but, in those which 
bring forth their young alive, the separation is not equally well 
marked, least of all in man. 

" In oviparous animals, such as birds, and in quadrupeds which 
are oviparous, the one half of the lung is widely separated from the 
other ; so that it appears as if they had two lungs. And from being 
single, the windpipe becomes (divided into) two, which extend to 
each half of the lung. It is fastened to the great vein, and to what 
is called the aorta. "When the windpipe is blown up, the air passes 
into the hollow parts of the lung. In these, are cartilaginous tubes 
(6ia,(f>v(jus) which unite at an angle ; from the tubes passages (rp^/j,ara) 
traverse the whole of the lung ; they are continually given off, the 
smaller from the larger." (Book i. 16.) 

That Aristotle should speak of the lung as a single 
organ divided into two halves, and should say that the 
division is least marked in man, is puzzling at first ; but 
the statement becomes intelligible, if we reflect upon the 
close union of the bronchi, the pulmonary vessels and the 
mediastinal walls of the pleurae, in mammals ; * and it is 

* In modern works on Veterinary Anatomy the lungs are sometimes 
described as two lobes of a single organ. 


quite true that the lungs are much more obviously dis- 
tinct from one another in birds. 

Aubert and "Wimmer translate the last paragraph of 
the passage just cited as follows : 

"Diese iiaben aber Imorpelige Scheidewande, welohe untcr spit- 
zen "Winkeln zusammentreten, und aus ihnen fuhren Oeffnungen 
durch die ganze Lunge, indcin sie sicli in immer kleineron ver- 

But I cannot think that by Sux,(j>v<ri,? and rprjpara, in 
this passage, Aristotle meant either "partitions" or open- 
ings in the ordinary sense of the latter word. For, in 
Book iii. Cap. 3, in describing the distribution of the 
"vein which goes to the lung" (the pulmonary artery), 
he says that it 

"extends alongside each tube (a&piyya) and each passage (rpypa), the 
larger beside the larger, and the smaller beside the smaller ; so that 
no part (of the lung) can be found from which a passage (rp^aa) and 
a vein are absent." 

Moreover, in .Book i. 17, he says 

" Canals (ndpoi) from the heart pass to the lung and divide in the 
same fashion as the windpipe does, closely accompanying those from 
the windpipe through the whole lung*" 

And again in Book i. 17 

"It (the lung) is entirely spongy, and alongside of each tube 
(pbpiyya) run canals (ir6poi) from the great vein." 

On comparing the last three statements with the facts 
of the case, it is plain that by eriJ/wyy^, or tubes, Aristotle 
means the bronchi and so many of their larger divisions 
as obviously contain cartilages; and that by 


ew he denotes the same tilings ; and, if this be so 5 
then the Tprj/jLara must be the smaller bronchial canals, in 
which the cartilages disappear. 

This view of the structure of the lung is perfectly 
correct so far as it extends; and, bearing it in mind, 
we shall be in a position to understand what Aristotle 
thought about the passage of air from the lungs into the 
heart. In every part of the lung, he says, in effect, 
there is an air tube which is derived from, the trachea, 
and other tubes which are derived from the Tropoi which 
connect the lung with the heart (supra , C). Their ap- 
plied walls constitute the thin " synapses " (TTJV o-uvafyiv} 
through which the air passes out of the air tubes into the 
Tropot, or blood-vessels, by transudation or diffusion ; for 
there is no community between the cavities of the air 
tubes and cavities of the canals ; that is to say, no open- 
ing from one into the other (supra, D). 

On the words " KQWQS Tropo? " Anbert and Wipam'er 
remark (I. c. p. 239), " Da A. die Ansicht hat die Lungen- 
luft wiirde dem Herzen zugefiihrt ? so postulirt er statt 
vieler kleiner Verbindungen einen grosses. Yerbindnngs- 
gang zwischen Lunge und Herz." 

But does Aristotle make this assumption ? The only 
evidence so far as I know in favour of the affirmative 
answer to this question is the following passage: 

Kal % Kapdta r% aprrjpig, TrifiE^Sect not xovdp&dect, 
8& GwJjpTzrai, Kolh6v eariv, <j>veu/i,vw <5 ri 
fiv kvioig ev ov Kar&dT^ov voiel, h 6% role /re^ocrt r&v ^ov 6qhov fat 
dcp%era<, rb nvsvfta e? avrfyv" (L cap. 16). 

" The heart and tlie windpipe are connected "by fatty and carti- 


laginous and fibrous bands ; where they are connected it is hollow. 
Blowing into the windpipe does not show clearly in some animals, 
but in the larger animals it is clear that the air goes into it." 

Anbert and Wimmer give a somewhat different ren- 
dering of this passage : 

"Auch das Herz hiingt mit der Luftrohre durch fettreiche, 
knorpelige nnd faserige Bander zusammen ; und cla, wo sie zusam- 
menhangen, ist eine Hohlung. Beirn Auf blasen dcr Lunge wird es 
bei manchen Thieren nicht wahrnehmbar, bei don grosseren aber 
ist es offenbar, dass die Luft in das Ilerz gelangt." 

The sense here turns upon the signification which is 
to be ascribed to ek avryv. But if these words refer to 
the heart, then Aristotle has distinctly pointed out the 
road which the air, in his opinion, takes, namely, through 
the " synapses " (Z?) ; and there is no reason that I can 
discover to believe that he " postulated 3? any other and 
more direct communication. 

hi With respect to the meaning of /co1\6v zanv^ Aubert 
anoTWimnier observe: 

" Dies scheint wohl die lairae Lnngenvcne zu sein. Schneider 
bezieht dies auf die Vorkarnmern, allein dioso werden unten als 
Hohlen des Herzens beschrioben." 

I am disposed to think, on the contrary, that the 
words refer simply to the cavity of the pericardium. 
For a part of this cavity ($mus tmnsversus pericardia) 
lies between the aorta, on the one hand, and the pul- 
monary vessels with the bifurcation of the trachea, on 
the other hand, and is much more conspicuous in some 
animals than in man. It is strictly correct, therefore, in 
Aristotle's words, to say that where the heart and the 


windpipe are connected "it is hollow/ 3 If lie Lad 
meant to speak of one of the pulmonary veins, or of 
any of the cavities of the heart, he "would have used the 
terms Tropoi or tcoiXias which he always employs for these 

According to Aristotle, then, the air taken into the 
lungs passes, from the final ramifications of the bronchial 
tubes into the corresponding branches of the pulmonary 
blood-vessels, not through openings, but by transudation, 
or, as we should nowadays say, diffusion, through the 
thin partitions formed by the applied coats of the two 
sets of canals. But the " pneuma " which thus reached 
the interior of the blood-vessels was not, in Aristotle's 
opinion, exactly the same, thing as the air. It was " atfp 
TroXu? pea>v teal adpoos " (De Mundo," iv. 9) subtilised 
and condensed air ; and it is hard to make out whether 
Aristotle considered it to possess the physical properties 
of an elastic fluid or those of a liquid. As he affirms 
that all the cavities of the heart contain blood (F)^ it is 
clear that he did not hold the erroneous view propounded 
in the next generation by Erasistratus. On the other 
hand, the fact that he supposes that the spermatic arte- 
ries do not contain blood but only an at/j,ar&$i]<$ wypov 
(" Hist Animalium," iii. 1), shows that his notions re- 
specting the contents of the arteries were vague. "Nor 
does he seem to have known that the pulse is character- 
istic only of the arteries ; and as he thought that the 
arteries end in solid fibrous bands, he naturally could 
not have entertained the faintest conception of the true 


motion of the blood. But, without attempting to read 
into Aristotle modern conceptions which, never entered 
his mind, it is only just to observe that his view of what 
becomes of the air taken into the lungs is by no means 
worthy of contempt as a gross error. On the contrary, 
here, as in the case of his anatomy of the heart, what 
Aristotle asserts is true as far as it goes. Something 
does actually pass from the air contained in the lungs 
through the coats of the vessels into the blood, and 
thence to the heart ; to wit, oxygen. And I think that 
it speaks very well for ancient Greek science that the 
investigator of so difficult a physiological problem as 
that of respiration, should have arrived at a conclusion, 
the statement of which, after the lapse of more than two 
thousand years, can be accepted as a thoroughly estab- 
lished scientific truth. 

I trust that tlie case in favour of removing the state- 
ments about the heart, from the list of the " errors of 
Aristotle " is now clear ; and that the evidence proves, 
on the contrary, that they justify us in forming a very 
favourable estimate of the oldest anatomical investigations 
among the Greeks of which any sufficient record remains. 

But is Aristotle to be credited with the merit of hav- 
ing ascertained so much of the truth? This question 
will not appear superfluous to those who are acquainted 
with the extraordinary history of Aristotle's works, or 
who adopt the conclusion of Aubert and Wimmer, that, 
of the ten books of the " Historia Animalium " which 
have come down to us, three are largely or entirely spu- 


rious, and that the others contain many Interpolations 
by later writers. 

It so happens, however, that, apart from other rea- 
sons, there are satisfactory internal grounds for ascribing 
the acconnt of the heart to a writer of the time at which 
Aristotle lived. For, within thirty years of his death, 
the anatomists of the Alexandrian school had thoroughly 
investigated the structure and the functions of the valves 
of the heart. During this time the manuscripts of Aris- 
totle were in the possession of Theophrastus ; and no 
interpolator of later date would have shown that he was 
ignorant of the nature and significance of these impor- 
tant structures, by the brief and obscure allusion " in its 
cavities there are tendons " (A). On the other hand, 
Polybus, whose account of the vascular system is quoted 
in the "Historia Animalium," was an elder contem- 
porary of Aristotle. Hence, if any part of the work 
faithfully represents that which Aristotle taught, we 
may safely conclude that the description of the heart 
does so. Having granted this much, however, it is an- 
other question, whether Aristotle is to be regarded as the 
first discoverer of the facts which he has so well stated, 
or whether he, like other men, was the intellectual child 
of his time and simply carried on a step or two the work 
which had been commenced by others. 

On the subject of Aristotle's significance as an origi- 
nal worker in biology extraordinarily divergent views 
have been put forward. If we are to adopt Curler's 
estimate, Aristotle was simply a miracle: 


" Avant Aristote la pMlosophie, enti&rement speculative, se per- 
dait dans les abstractions d^pourvues de f ondement ; la science n'ex- 
istait pas. II semble qu'elle soit sortie toute faite du cerveau d' Aris- 
tote comme Minerve, toute arm6e, du cerveau de Jupiter. Seul, en 
effet, sans antecedents, sans rien emprunter aux siecles qui 1'avaient 
precede, puisqu'ils n'avaient rien produit de solide, le disciple de 
Platon decouvrit et demontra plus de verites, executa plus de tra- 
vaux scientifigues en un vie de soixante-deux ans, qu'apr&s lui vingt 
siecles n'en ont pu faire," * etc. etc. 

u Aristote est le premier qui ait introduit la m^thode de I 1 in- 
duction, de la comparaison des observations pour en faire sortir des 
id&es g6ne"rales, et celle de Pexp<rience pour multiplier les faits dont 
ces id^es gn6rales peuvent etre d6duites." ii. p. 515. 

Tlie late Mr. G. H. Lewes ? f on the contrary, tells us 
" on a superficial examination, therefore, lie [Aristotle] 
will seem to have given tolerable descriptions; especi- 
ally if approached with that disposition to discover mar- 
vels which unconsciously determines us in our study of 
eminent writers. But a more unbiassed and impartial 
criticism will disclose that he has given no single ana- 
tomical description of the least value. All that he knew 
may have been known, and probably was known, with- 
out dissection. ... I do not assert that he never opened 
an animal ; on the contrary it seems highly probable 
that lie had opened many. . . . He never followed the 
course of a vessel or a nerve ; never laid bare the origin 
and insertion of a muscle ; never discriminated the com- 
ponent parts of organs ; never made clear to himself the 
connection of organs into systems." (pp. 156-7.) 

In the face of the description of the heart and lungs, 

* "Histoirc cles Sciences Naturellcs." t. i. p. 180. 
f " Aristotle, a Chapter from the History of Science." 


just quoted, I think we may venture to say that no one 
who has acquired even an elementary practical acquaint- 
ance with anatomy, and knows of his own knowledge 
that which Aristotle describes, will agree with the opin- 
ion expressed by Mr. Lewes; and those who turn to 
the accounts of the structure of the rock lobster and the 
common lobster, or to that of the Gephalopods and other 
Mollusks, in the fourth book of the " Historia Anima- 
liuin," will probably feel Inclined to object to it still 
more strongly. 

On the other hand, Ouvier's exaggerated panegyric 
will as little bear the test of cool discussion. In Greece, 
the century before Aristotle's birth was a period of great 
intellectual activity, in the field of physical science no 
less than elsewhere. The method of induction has never 
been used to better effect than by Hippocrates; and 
the labours of such men as Alkmeon, Demokritus, and 
Polybus, among Aristotle's predecessors; Diokles, and 
Praxagoras, among his contemporaries, laid a solid foun- 
dation for the scientific study of anatomy and develop- 
mentj independently of his labours. Aristotle himself 
informs us that the dissection of animals was commonly 
practised; that the aorta had been distinguished from 
the great vein; and that the connection of both with 
the heart had been observed by his predecessors. What 
they thought about the structure of the heart itself or 
that of the lungs, he does not tell us, and we have no 
means of knowing. So far from arrogantly suggesting 
that he owed nothing to his predecessors, Aristotle is 


careful to refer to their observations, and to explain why, 
in Ms judgment, they fell into tlie errors which he 

Aristotle's knowledge, in fact, appears to have stood 
in the same relation to that of such men as Polybus and 
Diogenes of Apollonia, as that of Herophilus and Era- 
sistratus did to his own, so far as the heart is concerned. 
He carried science a step beyond the point at which he 
found it ; a meritorious, but not a miraculous, achieve- 
ment. What he did, required the possession of very 
good powers of observation; if they had been powers 
of the highest class, he could hardly have left such con- 
spicuous objects as the valves of the heart to be discov- 
ered by his successors. 

And this leads me to make a final remark upon a 
singular feature of the " Eistoria Animalium." As a 
whole, it is a most notable production, full of accurate 
information, and of extremely acute generalisations of 
the observations accumulated by naturalists up to that 
time. And yet, every here and there, one stumbles 
upon assertions respecting matters which lie within the 
scope of the commonest inspection, which are not so 
much to be called errors, as stupidities. "What is to be 
made of the statement that the sutures of women's skulls 
are different from those of men ; that men and sundry 
male animals have more teeth than their respective fe- 
males ; that the back of the skull is empty ; and so on ? 
It is simply incredible to me, that the Aristotle who 
wrote the account of the heart, also committed himself 


to absurdities which can be excused by no theoretical 
prepossession and which are contradicted by the plainest 

What, after all, were the original manuscripts of the 
"Historia Animalium"? If they were notes of Aris- 
totle's lectures taken by some of his students, any lec- 
turer who has chanced to look through such notes, would 
find the interspersion of a foundation of general and 
sometimes minute accuracy, with patches of transcen- 
dent blundering, perfectly intelligible. Some competent 
Greek scholar may perhaps think it worth while to tell 
us what may be said for or against the hypothesis thus 
hinted. One obvious difficulty in the way of adopting 
it is the fact that, in other works, Aristotle refers to 
the "Historia Animalium 53 as if it had already been 
made public by himself. 



THE first lialf of the seventeenth century is one of 
the great epochs of biological science. For though sug- 
gestions and indications of the conceptions which took 
definite shape, at that time, are to be met with in works 
of earlier date, they are little more than the shadows 
which coming truth casts forward ; men's knowledge was 
neither extensive enough, nor exact enough, to show 
them the solid body of fact which threw these shadows. 

But, in the seventeenth century, the idea that the 
physical processes of life are capable of being explained 
in the same way as other physical phenomena, and, 
therefore, that the living body is a mechanism, waa 
proved to be true for certain classes of vital actions ; 
and, having thus taken firm root in irrefragable fact, 
this conception has not only successfully repelled every 
assault which has been made upon it, but has steadily 
grown in force and extent of application, until it is 
now the expressed or implied fundamental proposition 
of the whole doctrine of scientific Physiology. 


If we ask to whom mankind are indebted for this 
great service, tlie general voice will name William Har- 
vey. For, by Ms discovery of the circulation of the 
blood in the higher animals, by his explanation of the 
nature of the mechanism by which that circulation is 
effected, and by his no less remarkable, though less 
known, investigations of the process of development, 
Harvey solidly laid the foundations of all those physical 
explanations of the functions of sustentation and repro- 
duction which modern physiologists have achieved. 

But the living body is not only sustained and repro- 
duced : it adjusts itself to external and internal changes ; 
it moves and feels. The attempt to reduce the endless 
complexities of animal motion and feeling to law and 
order is, at least, as important a part of the task of the 
physiologist as the elucidation of what are sometimes 
called the vegetative processes. Harvey did not make 
this attempt himself; but the influence of his work 
upon the man who did make it is patent and unques- 
tionable. This man was Eene Descartes, who,, though 
by many years Harvey's junior, died before him ; and 
yet, in his short span of fifty-four years, took an undis- 
puted place, not only among the chiefs of philosophy, 
but amongst the greatest and most original of mathema- 
ticians; while, in my belief, he is no less certainly en- 
titled to the rank of a great and original physiologist ; 
inasmuch as he did for the physiology of motion and 
sensation that which Harvey had done for the circulation 
of the blood, and opened up that road to the mechanical 


theory of these processes, which has been followed "by 
all his successors. 

Descartes was no mere speculator, as some would 
have us believe: but a man who knew of his own 
knowledge what was to be known of the facts of 
anatomy and physiology in his day. He was an un- 
wearied dissector and observer ; and it is said, that, on 
a visitor once asking to see his library, Descartes led 
him into a room set aside for dissections, and full of 
specimens under examination. "There/ 7 said he, "is 
my library." 

I anticipate a smile of incredulity when I thus 
champion Descartes' claim to be considered a physiologist 
of the first rank. I expect to be told that I have read 
into his works what I find there, and to be asked, Why 
is it that we are left to discover Descartes' deserts at 
this time of day, more than two centuries after liis 
death? How is it that Descartes is utterly ignored in 
some of the latest works which treat expressly of the 
subject in which he is said to have been so great? 

It is much easier to ask such questions than to answer 
them, especially if one desires to be on good terms with 
one's contemporaries ; but, if I must give an answer, it 
is this : The growth of physical science is now so pro- 
digiously rapid, that those who are actively engaged in 
keeping up with the present, have much ado to find 
time to look at the past, and even grow into the habit 
of neglecting it. But, natural as this result may be, it 
is none the less detrimental. The intellect loses, for 


there is assuredly no more effectual method of clearing 
up one's own mind on any subject than by talking it 
over, so to speak, with men of real power and grasp, 
who have considered it from, a totally different point 
of view. The parallax of time helps us to the true posi- 
tion of a conception, as the parallax of space helps us 
to that of a star. And the moral nature loses no less. It 
is well to turn aside from the fretful stir of the present 
and to dwell with gratitude and respect upon the 
services of those " mighty men of old who have gone 
down to the grave with their weapons of war," but who, 
while they yet lived, won splendid victories over igno- 
rance. It is well, again, to reflect that the fame of Des- 
cartes filled all Europe, and his authority overshadowed 
it, for a century ; while now, most of those who know 
his name think of him, either as a person who had some 
preposterous notions about vortices and was deservedly 
annihilated by the great Sir Isaac Newton; or as the 
apostle of an essentially vicious method of deductive 
speculation ; and that, nevertheless, neither the chatter 
of shifting opinion, nor the silence of personal oblivion, 
has in the slightest degree affected the growth of the 
great ideas of which he was the instrument and the 

It is a matter of fact that the greatest physiologist 
of the eighteenth century, Haller, in treating of the 
functions of nerve, does little more than reproduce and 
enlarge upon the ideas of Descartes. It is a matter of 
fact that David Hartley, in his remarkable work the 


" Essay oa Man," expressly, though, still insufficiently ? 
acknowledges the resemblance of his fundamental con- 
ceptions to those of Descartes ; and I shall now en- 
deavour to show that a series of propositions, which 
constitute the foundation and essence of the modern 
physiology of the nervous system ? are fully expressed 
and illustrated in the works of Descartes. 

I. The Twain is the organ of sensation, thought, and 
emotion ; that is to say, some change in the con- 
dition of the matter of this organ is the invari- 
able antecedent of the state of consciousness to 
which each of these terms is applied. 
In the Principes de la Philosophic " ( 169), Des- 
cartes says : * 

" Although the soul is united to the whole body, its principal 
functions are, nevertheless, performed in the brain ; it is here that 
it not only understands and imagines, but also feels ; and this is 
effected by the intermediation of the nerves, which extend in the 
form of delicate threads from the brain to all parts of the body, to 
which they are attached in such a manner, that we can hardly touch 
any part of the body without setting the extremity of some nerve 
in motion. This motion passes along the nervo to that part of the 
brain which is the common sensorium, as I have sufficiently ox- 
plained in my Treatise on Dioptrics; and the movements which 
thus travel along the nerves, as far as that part of the brain with 
which the soul is closely joined and united, cause it, by reason 
of their diverse characters, to have different thoughts. And it is 
these different thoughts of the soul, which arise immediately from 
the movements that are excited by the nerves in the brain, which 
we properly term our feelings, or the perceptions of our senses." 

* I quote, hero and always, Cousin's edition of the works of Descartes, 
as most convenient for reference. It is entitled " OEuvres completes de 
Descartes/' publics par Victor Cousin. 1824. 


Elsewhere,* Descartes, In arguing that tlie seat of 
the passions is not (as many suppose) the heart, but the 
brain, uses the following remarkable language: 

" The opinion of those who think that the soul receives its pas- 
sions in the heart, is of no weight, for it is based upon the fact that 
the passions cause a change to be felt in that organ ; and it is easy to 
see that this change is felt, as if it were in the heart, only by the 
intermediation of a little nerve which descends from the brain to 
it ; Just as pain is felt, as if it were in the foot, by the intermedia- 
tion of the nerves of the foot; and the stars are perceived, as if 
they were in the heavens, by the intermediation of their light and 
of the optic nerves. So that it is no more necessary for the soul to 
exert its functions immediately in the heart, to feel its passions 
there, than it is necessary that it should be in the heavens to see 
the stars there." 

This definite allocation of all the phenomena of 
consciousness to the brain as their organ, was a step 
the value of which it is difficult for us to appraise, so 
completely has Descartes' view incorporated itself with 
every-day thought and common language. A lunatic 
is said to be " crack-brained " or " touched in the head/ 3 
a confused thinker is u muddle-headed," while a clever 
man is said to have " plenty of brains ; ?> but it must be 
remembered that at the end of the last century a con- 
siderable, though much over-estimated, anatomist, Bi- 
chat, so far from having reached the level of Descartes, 
could gravely argue that the apparatuses of organic life 
are the sole seat of the passions, which in no way affect 
the brain, except so far as it is the agent by which the 
influence of the passions is transmitted to the muscles.f 

* " Les Passions de PAme," Article xxxiii. 

f " Recherches physiologiques sur la Vie et la Mort." Par Xav. Bichat 
Art. Sixime. 


Modern physiology, aided by pathology, easily dem- 
onstrates that the brain is the seat of all forms of con- 
sciousness, and fully bears out Descartes' explanation, 
of the reference of those sensations in the viscera whicli 
accompany intense emotion, to these organs. It proves, 
directly, that those states of consciousness which we 
call sensations are the immediate consequent of a change 
in the brain excited by the sensory nerves ; and, on the 
well-known effects of injuries, of stimulants, and of 
narcotics, it bases the conclusion that thought and 
emotion are, in like manner, the consequents of physi- 
cal antecedents. 

II. The movements of animals a/re due to the change 
of form of muscles, which shorten and become 
thicker; and this change of form in a muscle 
arises from a motion of the substance contained 
within the nerves which go to the muscle. 

In the " Passions de 1'Ame," Art. vil, Descartes 
writes : 

" Moreover, we know that all tlie movements of tlie limbs de- 
pend on the muscles, and that these muscles are opposed to one 
another in such a manner, that when one of them shortens, it draws 
along the part of the body to which it is attached, and so gives 
rise to a simultaneous elongation of the muscle which is opposed to 
it. Then, if it happens, afterwards, that the latter shortens, it 
causes the former to elongate, and draws towards itself the part to 
which it is attached. Lastly, we know that all these movements 
of the muscles, as all the senses, depend on the nerves, which are 
like little threads or tubes, which all come from the brain, and, like 
it, contain a certain very subtle air or wind, termed the animal 


The property of muscle mentioned by Descartes 
now goes by the general name of contractility, but his 
definition of it remains untouched. The long-contin- 
ued controversy whether contractile substance, speak- 
ing generally, has an inherent power of contraction, or 
whether it contracts only in virtue of an influence 
exerted by nerve, is now settled in Haller's favour; 
but Descartes' statement of the dependence of mus- 
cular contraction on nerve holds good for the higher 
forms of muscle, under normal circumstances ; so that, 
although the structure of the various modifications of 
contractile matter has been worked out with astonishing 
minuteness although the delicate physical and chem- 
ical changes which accompany muscular contraction have 
been determined to an extent of which Descartes could 
not have dreamed, and have quite upset his hypothe- 
sis that the cause of the shortening and thickening of 
the muscle is the flow of animal spirits into it from 
the nerves the important and fundamental part of 
his statement remains perfectly true. 

The like may be affirmed of what he says about 
nerve. We know now that nerves are not exactly 
tubes, and that "animal spirits" are myths; but the 
exquisitely refined methods of investigation of Du- 
bois-Eeymond and of Helmhok have no less clearly 
proved that the antecedent of ordinary muscular con- 
traction is a motion of the molecules of the nerve 
going to the muscle; and that this motion is propa' 
gated with a measurable, and by no means great, ve- 


locity, through the substance of the nerve towards the 

"With the progress of research, the term "animal 
spirits" gave way to "nervous fluid," and "nervous 
fluid" has now given way to "molecular motion of 
nerve-sub tance." Our conceptions of what takes place 
in nerve have altered in the same way as our concep- 
tions of what takes place in a conducting wire have 
altered, since electricity was shown to be not a fluid, 
but a mode of molecular motion. The change is of vast 
importance, but it does not affect Descartes' fundamen- 
tal idea, that a change in the substance of a motor nerve 
propagated towards a muscle is the ordinary cause of 
muscular contraction. 

III. The sensations of animals are due to a motion of 
the substance of the nerves which connect the sen- 
sory organs with the hrain. 

In La Dioptrique (Discours Quatriemc), Descartes 
explains, more fully than in the passage cited above, his 
hypothesis of the mode of action of sensory nerves : 

"It is the little threads of which the inner substance of the 
nerves is composed which subserve sensation. You must conceive 
that these little threads, being inclosed in tubes, which are always 
distended and kept open by the animal spirits which they contain, 
neither press upon nor interfere with one another, and are extended 
from the brain to the extremities of all the members which are sen- 
sitive in such a manner that the slightest touch which excites the 
part of one of the members to which a thread is attached, gives rise 
to a motion of the part of the brain whence it arises, just as by pull- 
ing one of the ends of a stretched cord, the other end is instantano- 


ously moved. . . . And we must take care not to imagine that, in 
order to feel, the soul needs to behold certain images sent by the 
objects of sense to the brain, as our philosophers commonly sup- 
pose ; or, at least, we must conceive these images to be something 
quite different from what they suppose them to be. For, as all 
they suppose is that these images ought to resemble the objects 
which they represent, it is impossible for them to show how they 
can be formed by the objects received by the organs of the external 
senses and transmitted to the brain. And they have had no reason 
for supposing the existence of these images except this ; seeing that 
the mind is readily excited by a picture to conceive the object which 
is depicted, they have thought that it must be excited in the same 
way to conceive those objects which affect our senses by little pic- 
tures of them formed in the head ; instead of which we ought to 
recollect that there are many things besides images which may ex- 
cite the mind, as, for example, signs and words, which have not the 
least resemblance to the objects which they signify. 7 '* 

Modern physiology amends Descartes' conception of 
tlie mode of action of sensory nerves in detail, by stow- 
ing that their structure is the same as that of motor 
nerves ; and that the changes which take place in them, 
when the sensory organs with which they are connected 
are excited, are of just the same nature as those which 
occur in motor nerves, when the muscles to which they 
are distributed are made to contract : there is a molecu- 
lar change which, in the case of the sensory nerve, is 
propagated towards the brain. But the great fact in- 
sisted upon by Descartes, that no likeness of external 

* Locke (Human Understanding, Book II., chap. viii. SV) uses Des- 
cartes' illustration for the same purpose, and warns us that " most of the 
ideas of sensation are no more the likeness of something existing without 
us than the names that stand for them are the likeness of our ideas, which 
yet, upon hearing, they are apt to excite in us," a declaration which paved 
the way for Berkeley. 


tilings is, or can be, transmitted to the mind by the 
sensory organs ; but that, between the external cause of 
a sensation and the sensation, there is interposed a mode 
of motion of nervous matter, of which the state of con- 
sciousness is no likeness, but a mere symbol, is of the 
profoundest importance. It is the physiological founda- 
tion of the doctrine of the relativity of knowledge, and 
a more or less complete idealism is a necessary conse- 
quence of it. 

For of two alternatives one must be true. Either 
consciousness is the function of a something distinct 
from the brain, which we call the soul, and a sensation 
is the mode in which this soul is affected by the motion 
of a part of the brain ; or there is no soul, and a sensa- 
tion is something generated by the mode of motion of 
a part of the brain. In the former case, the phenomena 
of the senses are purely spiritual affections ; in the lat- 
ter, they are something manufactured by the mechanism 
of the body, and as unlike the causes which set that 
mechanism in motion, as the sound of a repeater is un- 
like the pushing of the spring which gives rise to it. 

The nervous system stands between consciousness 
and the assumed external world, as an interpreter who 
can talk with his fingers stands between a hidden speaker 
and a man who is stone deaf and Realism is equiva- 
lent to a belief on the part of the deaf man, that the 
speaker must also be talking with his fingers- "Les 
extremes se touchent;" the shibboleth of materialists 
that " thought is a secretion of the brain," is the Fich- 


tean doctrine that "the phenomenal universe is the crea- 
tion of the Ego," expressed in other language. 

IV. The motion of the matter of a sensory nerve may be 
transmitted through the brain to motor nerves, and 
thereby give rise to contraction of the muscles to 
which these motor nerves are distributed; and this 
reflection of motion from a sensory into a motor 
nerve may take place without volition, or even con- 
trary to it. 

In stating these important truths, Descartes defined 
that which we now term "reflex action." Indeed he 
almost uses the term itself, as he talks of the " animal 
spirits " as " refl<chis," * from the sensory into the motor 
nerves. And that this use of the word " reflected " was 
no mere accident, but that the importance and appro- 
priateness of the idea it suggests was fully understood 
by Descartes' contemporaries, is apparent from a passage 
in Willis's well-known essay, "De Anim& Brutorum," 
published in 1672, in which, in giving an account of 
Descartes' views, he speaks of the animal spirits being 
diverted into motor channels, "velut undulatione re- 
flexL" f 

* " Passions de 1' Ame," Art. xxxvL 

f ** Quamcumque Bruti actionem, yelut automati mechanic! motum arti- 
ficialem, in eo eonsistere quod se primd sensibile aliquod spiritus animates 
afficiens, eosque introrsum convertens, semionem excitat, a qua mox iidem 
spiritus, velut undulatione reflex& denuo retrorsum commoti atque pro con- 
cinno ipsius f abricse organorum, et partium ordine, in certos nervos muscu- 
losque determinati, respectivos membrorum motus perficiunt." ^WILLIS: 
" De Anima Brutorum," p. 5, ed. 1763. 


Nothing can be clearer in statement, or in illustra- 
tion, titan the view of reflex action which. Descartes 
gives in the "Passions de 1'," Art. xiii. 

After recapitulating the manner in which sensory 
impressions transmitted by the sensory nerves to the 
brain give rise to sensation, he proceeds : 

u And in addition to the different feelings excited in the soul by 
these different motions of the brain, the animal spirits, without the 
intervention of the soul, may take their course towai'ds certain mus- 
cles, rather than towards others, and thus move the limbs, as I shall 
prove by an example. If some one moves his hand rapidly towards 
our eyes, as if he were going to strike us, although we know that 
he is a friend, that lie does it only in jest, and that he will be very 
careful to do us no harm, nevertheless it will be hard to keep from 
winking. And this shows, that it is not by the agency of the soul 
that the eyes shut, since this action is contrary to that volition 
which is the only, or at least the chief, function of the soul; but it 
is because the mechanism of our body is so disposed, that the motion 
of the hand towards our eyes excites another movement in our brain, 
and this sends the animal spirits into those muscles which cause the 
eyelids to close.'" 

Since Descartes' time, experiment has eminently en- 
larged our knowledge of the details of reflex action. 
The discovery of Bell has enabled us to follow the tracks 
of the sensory and motor impulses, along distinct bun- 
dles of nerve fibres ; and the spinal cord, apart from the 
brain, has been proved to be a great centre of reflex 
action ; but the fundamental conception remains as Des- 
cartes left it, and it is one of the pillars of nerve physi- 
ology at the present day. 

V. The motion of any gwen portion of the matter of the 
train excited ly the motion of a sensory nerve, leaves 


'behind a readiness to ~be moved in the same way, in 
that part. Anything which resuscitates the motion 
gives rise to the appropriate feeling. This is the 
physical mechanism of memory. 

Descartes imagined that the pineal body (a curious 
appendage to the upper side of the brain, the function 
of which, if it have any, is wholly unknown) was the 
instrument through which the soul received impressions 
from, and communicated them to, the brain. And he 
thus endeavours to explain what happens when one tries 
to recollect something : 

" Thus when the soul wills to remember anything, this volition, 
causing the [pineal] gland to incline itself in different directions, 
drives the [animal] spirits towards different regions of the brain, 
until they reach that part in which are the traces, which the object 
which it desires to remember has left. These traces are produced 
thus : those pores of the brain through which the [animal] spirits 
have previously been driven, by reason of the presence of the ob- 
ject, have thereby acquired a tendency to be opened by^ the animal 
spirits which return towards them, more easily than other pores, so 
that the animal spirits, impinging on these pores, enter them more 
readily than others. By this means they excite a particular move- 
ment in the pineal gland, which represents the object to the soul, 
and causes it to know what it is which it desired to recollect." * 

That memory is dependent upon some condition of 
the brain is a fact established by many considerations 
among the most important of which are the remarkable 
phenomena of aphasia. And that the condition of the 
brain on which memory depends, is largely determined 
by the repeated occurrence of that condition of its mo- 

* "Les Passions de PAme," xlil 


lecules, winch gives rise to the idea of the thing remem- 
bered, is no less certain. Every boy who learns his 
lesson by repeating it exemplifies the fact. Descartes, 
as we have seen, snpposes that the pores of a given part 
of the brain are stretched by the animal spirits, on the 
occurrence of a sensation, and that the part of the brain 
thus stretched, being imperfectly elastic, does "not return 
to exactly its previous condition, but remains more dis- 
tensible than it was before. Hartley supposes that the 
vibrations, excited by a sensory, or other, impression, 
do not die away, but are represented by smaller vibra- 
tions or " vibratiuncules," the permanency and intensity 
of which are in relation with the frequency of repetition 
of the primary vibrations. Haller has substantially the 
same idea, but contents himself with the general term 
" mutationes," to express the cerebral change which is 
the cause of a state of consciousness. These "muta- 
tiones" persist for a long time after the cause which 
gives rise to them has ceased to operate, and are arranged 
in the brain according to the order of coexistence and 
succession of their causes. And he gives these persistent 
" mutationes " the picturesque name of vestigia rerum, 
".quse non in xnente sed in ipso corpore et in medulla 
quidem cerebri ineffabili modo incredibiliter minutis 
notis et copia infinita, inscripta sunt. 37 * I do not know 
that any modem theory of the physical conditions of 
memory differs essentially from these, which are all chil- 
dren mutatis mutandis of the Cartesian doctrine. 

* Haller, " Frimso Linese," cd. iii. " Sensus Interni," dlriii. 


Physiology is, at present, incompetent to say anytMng 
positively about the matter, or to go farther than the 
expression of the high probability, that every molecular 
change which gives rise to a state of consciousness, leaves 
a more or less persistent structural modification, through 
which the same molecular change may be regenerated 
by other agencies than the cause which first produced it. 

Thus far, the propositions respecting the physiology 
of the nervous system which are stated by Descartes 
have simply been more clearly defined, more fully illus- 
trated, and, for the most part, demonstrated, by modern 
physiological research. But there remains a doctrine to 
which Descartes attached great weight, so that full ac- 
ceptance of it became a sort of note of a thorough-going 
Cartesian, but which, nevertheless, is so opposed to 
ordinary prepossessions that it attained more general 
notoriety, and gave rise to more discussion, than almost 
any other Cartesian hypothesis. It is the doctrine, that 
brute animals are mere machines or automata, devoid not 
only of reason, but of any kind of consciousness, which is 
stated briefly in the "Discours de la Methode," and 
more fully in the "Eeponses aux Quatriemes Objec- 
tions," and in the correspondence with Henry More.* 

The process of reasoning by which Descartes arrived 
at this startling conclusion is well shown in the following 
passage of the " Keponses : " 

* " Expense de M. Descartes a M. Moras." 1649. " GEuvres," tome x. 
p. 204. " Mais le plus grand de tous les prSjuges que nous ayons retemis 
de notre enfance, est celui de croire que les bites pensent," etc. 


" But as regards the souls of "beasts, although this is not the 
place for considering them, and though, without a general exposi- 
tion of physics, I can say no more on this subject than I have 
already said in the fifth part of my Treatise on Method ; yet, I will 
farther state, here, that it appears to me to be a very remarkable 
circumstance that no movement can take place, either in the bodies 
of beasts, or even in our own, if these bodies have not in themselves 
all the organs and instruments by means of which the very same 
movements would be accomplished in a machine. So that, even in 
us, the spirit, or tho soul, does not directly move the limbs, but only 
determines the course of that very subtle liquid which is called the 
animal spirits, which, running continually from the heart by the 
brain into the muscles, is the cause of all the movements of our 
limbs, and often may cause many different motions, one as easily as 
the other. 

" And it does not even always exert this determination ; for 
among the movements which take place in us, there are many 
which do not depend on the mind at all, such as the beating of the 
heart, the digestion of food, the nutrition, the respiration, of those 
who sleep ; and, even in those who are awake, walking, singing, and 
other similar actions, when they are performed without the mind 
thinking about them. And, when one who falls from a height 
throws his hands forwards to save his head, ib is in virtue of no 
ratiocination that he performs this action ; it does not depend upon 
his mind, but takes place merely because his senses being afFected 
by the present danger, some change arises in his brain which deter- 
mines the animal spirits to pass thonce into the norvos, in such a 
manner as is required to produce this motion, in the same way as in 
a machine, and without tho mind being able to hinder it. IsTow 
since we observe this in ourselves, why should we be so much 
astonished if the light reflected from tho body of a wolf into the eye 
of a sheep has the samo force to excite in it tho motion of flight. 

" After having observed this, if we wish to learn by reasoning, 
whether certain movements of boasts are comparable to those which 
are effected in us by tho operation of the mind, or, on tho contrary, 
to those which depond only on tho animal spirits and tho disposi- 
tion of tho organs, it is necessary to consider the difference between 
tho two, which I havo explained in tho fifth part of the Discourse 
on Mothod (for I do not think that any others aro discoverable), and 
then it will easily bo seen, that all tho actions of beasts are similar 


only to those which WQ perform without the help of our minds. 
For which reason we shall be forced to conclude, that we know of 
the existence in them of no other principle of motion than the dis- 
position of their organs and the continual affluence of animal spirits 
produced by the heat of the heart, which attenuates and subtilises 
the blood; and, at the same time, we shall acknowledge that we 
have had no reason for assuming any other principle, except that, 
not having distinguished these two principles of motion, and seeing 
that the one, which depends only on the animal spirits and the 
organs, exists in beasts as well as in us, we have hastily concluded 
that the other, which depends on mind and on thought, was also 
possessed by them." 

Descartes' line of argument is perfectly clear. He 
starts from reflex action in man, from the unquestionable 
fact that, in ourselves, co-ordinate, purposive, actions 
may take place, without the intervention of conscious- 
ness or volition, or even contrary to the latter. As 
actions of a certain degree of complexity are brought 
about by mere mechanism, why may not actions of still 
greater complexity be the result of a more refined 
mechanism ? What proof is there that brutes are other 
than a superior race of marionettes, which eat without 
pleasure, cry without pain, desire nothing, know nothing, 
and only simulate intelligence as a bee simulates a mathe- 
matician ? * 

* Malebranche states the view taken by orthodox Cartesians in 1689 
very forcibly: " Ainsi dans les chiens, lea chats, et les autres animaux, il 
n'y a ny intelligence, ny ame spirituelle comme on Pentend ordinairement. 
Us mangent sans plaisir; ils crient sans dotileur; ils croissant sans le 
s^avoir ; ils ne de"sirent rien ; ils ne connoissent rien ; et s'ils agissent avec 
adresse et d'une maniSre qui marque PintelKgence, c'est que Dieu les f aisant . 
pour les conserver, il a conform^ leurs corps de telle maniere, qu'ils e"vitent 
organiquement, sans le S9avoir, tout ce qui pent les de*traire et qu'ils 
.semblent craindre." ("Feuillet de Conches. Meditations M&aphysiques et 
Correspondance de N. Malebranche. Neuvie'me Meditation." 1841.) 


The Port Koyalists adopted tlie hypothesis that 
"brutes are machines, and are said to have carried its 
practical applications so far, as to treat domestic animals 
with neglect, if not with actual cruelty. As late as the 
middle of the eighteenth century, the problem was dis- 
cussed very fully and ably by Bouillier, in his "Essai 
philosophique sur 1'Ame des Betes," while Oondillac 
deals with it in his " Traite des Animaux ; " but since 
then it has received little attention. Nevertheless, mod- 
ern research has brought to light a great multitude of 
facts, which not only show that Descartes' view is defen- 
sible, but render it far more defensible than it was in his 

It must be premised, that it is wholly impossible 
absolutely to prove the presence or absence of conscious- 
ness in anything but one's own brain, though, by anal- 
ogy, we are justified in assuming its existence in other 
men. Now if, by some accident, a man's spinal cord is 
divided, his limbs are paralysed, so far as his volition 
is concerned, below the point of injury; and he is in- 
capable of experiencing all those states of consciousness, 
which, in his "uninjured state, would be excited by irrita- 
tion of those nerves which come off below the injury. 
If the spinal cord is divided in the middle of the back, 
for example, the skin of the feet may be cut, or pinched, 
or burned, or wetted with vitriol, without any sensation 
' of touch, or of pain, arising in consciousness. So far as 
the man is concerned, therefore, the part of the central 
nervous system which lies beyond the injury is cut off 


from consciousness. It must indeed be admitted, that, 
if any one think fit to maintain that the spinal cord 
below the injury is conscious, but that it is cat off from 
any means of making its consciousness known to the 
other consciousness in the brain, there is no means of 
driving him from his position by logic. But assuredly 
there is no way of proving it, and in the matter of con- 
sciousness, if in anything, we may hold by the rule, "De 
non apparentibus et de uon existentibus eadem est ra- 
tio." However near the brain the spinal cord is in- 
jured, consciousness remains intact, except that the irri- 
tation of parts below the injury is no longer represented 
by sensation. On the other hand, pressure upon the 
anterior division of the brain, or extensive injuries to 
it, abolish consciousness. Hence, it is a highly probable 
conclusion, that consciousness in man depends upon the 
integrity of the anterior division of the brain, while the 
middle and hinder divisions of the brain, and the rest 
of the nervous centres, have nothing to do with it. And 
it is further highly probable, that what is true for man 
is true for other vertebrated animals. 

We may assume, then, that in a living vertebrated 
animal, any segment of the cerebro-spinal axis (or spinal 
cord and brain) separated from that anterior division of 
the brain which is the organ of consciousness, is as com- 
pletely incapable of giving rise to consciousness, as we 
know it to be incapable of carrying out volitions. Nev- 
ertheless, this separated segment of the spinal cord is 
not passive and inert. On the contrary, it is the seat 


of extremely remarkable powers. In our imaginary 
case of injury, the man would, as we have seen, be de- 
void of sensation in his legs, and would have not the 
least power of moving them. But, if the soles of his 
feet were tickled, the legs would be drawn up, just as 
vigorously as they would have been before the injury. 
We know exactly what happens when the soles of the 
feet are tickled ; a molecular change takes place in the 
sensory nerves of the skin, and is propagated along them 
and through the posterior roots of the spinal nerves, 
which are constituted by them, to the grey matter of 
the spinal cord. Through that grey matter, the molecu- 
lar motion is reflected into the anterior roots of the 
same, nerves, constituted by the filaments which supply 
the muscles of the legs, and, travelling along these mo- 
tor filaments, reaches the muscles, which at once con- 
tract, and cause the limbs to be drawn up. 

In order to move the logs in this way, a definite co- 
ordination of muscular contractions is necessary ; the 
muscles must contract in a certain order and with duly 
proportioned force ; and moreover, as the feet are drawn 
away from the source of irritation, it may be said that 
the action has a final cause, or is purposive. 

Thus it follows, that the grey matter of the segment 
of the man's spinal cord, though it is devoid of con- 
sciousness, nevertheless responds to a simple stimulus 
by giving rise to a complex set of muscular contractions, 
co-ordinated towards a definite end, and serving aa obvi- 
ous purpose. 


If the spinal cord of a frog is cut across, so as to 
provide us with, a segment separated from the brain, we 
shall have a subject parallel to the injured man, on 
which experiments can be made without remorse; as 
we have a right to conclude that a frog's spinal cord is 
not likely to be conscious when a man's is not. 

Now the frog behaves just as the man did. The 
legs are utterly paralysed, so far as voluntary move- 
ment is concerned ; but they are vigorously drawn up 
to the body when any irritant is applied to the foot. 
But let -us study our frog a little farther. Touch the 
skin of the side of the body with a little acetic acid, 
which gives rise to all the signs of great pain in an un- 
injured frog. In this case, there can be no pain, because 
the application is made to a part of the skin supplied 
with nerves which come off from the cord below the 
point of section ; nevertheless, the frog lifts up the limb 
of the same side, and applies the foot to rub off the 
acetic acid; and, what is still more remarkable, if the 
limb be held BO that the frog cannot use it, it will, by- 
and-by, move the limb of the other side, turn it across 
the body, and use it for the same rubbing process. It 
is impossible that the frog, if it were in its entirety and 
could reason, should perform actions more purposive 
than these: and yet we have most complete assurance 
that, in this case, the frog is not acting from purpose, 
has no consciousness, and is a mere insensible machine. 
But now suppose that, instead of making a section 
of the cord in the middle of the body, it had been made 


in such a manner as to separate tlie hindermost division 
of the brain from the rest of the organ, and suppose the 
foremost two-thirds of the brain entirely taken away. 
The frog is then absolutely devoid of any spontaneity ; 
it sits upright in the attitude which a frog habitually 
assumes ; and it will not stir unless it is touched ; but 
it differs from the frog which I have just described in 
this, that, if it be thrown into the water, it begins to 
swim, and swims just as well as the perfect frog does. 
But swimming requires the combination and successive 
co-ordination of a great number of muscular, actions. 
And we are forced to conclude, that the impression 
made upon the sensory nerves of the skin of the frog 
by the contact with the water into which it is thrown, 
causes the transmission to the central nervous apparatus 
of an impulse, which sets going a certain machinery by 
which all the muscles of swimming are brought into play 
in due co-ordination. If the frog be stimulated by some 
irritating body, it jumps or walks as well $s the com- 
plete frog can do. The simple sensory impression, act- 
ing through the machinery of the cord, gives rise to 
these complex combined movements. 

It is possible to go a step farther. Suppose that only 
the anterior division of the brain so much of it as lies 
in front of the " optic lobes " is removed. If that oper- 
ation is performed quickly and skilfully, the frog may 
be kept in a state of full bodily vigour for months, or 
it may be for years; but it will sit unmoved. It sees 
nothing; it hears nothing. It will starve sooner than 


feed itself, although food put into its month, is swal- 
lowed. On irritation, it jnmps or walks ; if thrown into 
the water it swims. If it he put on the hand, it sits 
there, cronched, perfectly quiet, and would sit there for 
ever. If the hand be inclined very gently and slowly, 
so that the frog would naturally tend to slip off, the 
creature's fore paws are shifted on to the edge of the 
hand, nntil he can just prevent himself from falling. 
If the turning of the hand he slowly continued, he 
monnts np with great care and deliberation, pntting first 
one leg forward and then another, nntil he balances 
himself with perfect precision npon the edge; and, if 
the tnrning of the hand is continued, over he goes 
through the needful set of muscular operations, until he 
comes to be* seated in security, upon the back of the 
hand. The doing of all this requires a delicacy of co- 
ordination, and a precision of adjustment of the muscu- 
lar apparatus of the body, which are only comparable to 
those of a rope-dancer. To the ordinary influences of 
light, the frog, deprived of its central hemispheres, 
appears to be blind. Nevertheless, if the animal be put 
upon a table, with a book at some little distance between 
it and the light, and the skin of the hinder part of its 
body is then irritated, it will jump forward, avoiding 
the book by passing to the right or left of it. Although 
the frog, therefore, appears to have no sensation of light, 
visible objects act through its brain upon the motor 
mechanism of its body.* 

*See the remarkable essay of Goltz, " Beitrage zur Lehre von den 


It is obvious, that had Descartes been acquainted 
with these remarkable results of modern research, they 
would have furnished him with far more powerful argu- 
ments than he possessed in favour of his view of the 
automatism of brutes. The habits of a frog, leading 
its natural life, involve such simple adaptations to sur- 
rounding conditions, that the machinery which is compe- 
tent to do so much without the intervention of con- 
sciousness, might well do alL And this argument is 
vastly strengthened by what has been learned in recent 
times of the marvellously complex operations which are 
performed mechanically, and to all appearance without 
consciousness, by men, when, in consequence of injury 
or disease, they, are reduced to a condition more or less 
comparable to that of a frog, in which the anterior 
part of the brain has been removed. A case has recently 
been published by an eminent French physician, Dr. 
Mesnet, which illustrates this condition so remarkably, 
that I make no apology for dwelling upon it at con- 
siderable length. 4 * 

A sergeant of the French army, F , twenty-seven 

years of age, was wounded during the battle of Bazeilles, 
by a ball which fractured his left parietal bone. lie 

Functionen dcr Ncrvencentren des Frosclies," published in 1869. I have 
repeated Goltz's experiments, and obtained the same results, 

* " De I' Automatisme de la M6moire et du Souvenir, dans le Somnam- 
bulisme pathologique." Par le Dr. E. Mesnet, M^decin de PH6pital Saint- 
Antoine, "L'XJnion MMIcale," Juillet 21 et 23, 1874. My attention was 
first called to a summary of this remarkable case, which appeared In the 
"Journal des De*bats" for the 7th of August 1874, by my friend General 
Strachey, F.K.R 


ran Ms bayonet through, the Prussian soldier who 
wounded him, "but almost immediately his right arm 
became paralysed; after walking about two hundred 
yards, his right leg became similarly affected, and he 
lost his senses. "When he recovered them, three weeks 
afterwards, in hospital at Mayence, the right half of 
the body was completely paralysed, and remained in 
this condition for a year. At present, the only trace 
of the paralysis which remains is a slight weakness of 
the right half of the body. Three or four months 
after the wound was inflicted, periodical disturbances 
of the functions of the brain made their appearance, 
and have continued ever since. The disturbances last 
from fifteen to thirty hours ; the intervals at which they 
occur being from fifteen to thirty days. 

For four years, therefore, the life of this man has 
been divided into alternating phases short abnormal 
states intervening between long normal states. 

In the periods of normal life, the ex-sergeant's health 
is perfect ; he is intelligent and kindly, and performs, 
satisfactorily, the duties of a hospital attendant. The 
commencement of the abnormal state is ushered in by 
uneasiness and a sense of weight about the forehead, 
which the patient compares to the constriction of a circle 
of iron; and, after its termination, he complains, for 
some hours, of dulness and heaviness of the head. But 
the transition from the normal to the abnormal state 
takes place in a few minutes, without convulsions or 
cries, and without anything to indicate the change to a 


bystander. His movements remain free and his expres- 
sion calm, except for a contraction of the brow, an in- 
cessant movement of the eyeballs, and a chewing motion 
of the jaws. The eyes are wide open, and their pupils 
dilated. If the man happens to be in a place to which 
he is accustomed, he walks about as usual ; but, if he is 
in a new place, or if obstacles are intentionally placed in 
his way, he stumbles gently against them, stops, and then, 
feeling over the objects with his hands, passes on one 
side of them. He offers no resistance to any change of 
direction which, may be impressed upon him, or to the 
forcible acceleration or retardation of his movements. 
He eats, drinks, smokes, walks about, dresses and un- 
dresses himself, rises and goes to bed at the accustomed 
hours. Nevertheless, pins may be run into his body, or 
strong electric shocks sent through it, without causing 
the least indication of pain ; no odorous substance, pleas- 
ant or unpleasant, makes the least impression; he eats 
and drinks with avidity whatever is offered, and takes 
asaf oetida, or vinegar, or quinine, as readily as water ; no 
noise affects him ; and light influences him only under 
certain conditions. Dr. Mesnet remarks, that the sense 
of touch alone seems to persist, and indeed to be more 
acute and delicate than in the normal state ; and it is by 
means of the nerves of touch, almost exclusively, that 
his organism Is brought into relation with the external 
world. Here a difficulty arises. It is clear from the 
facts detailed, that the nervous apparatus by which, in 
the normal state, sensations of touch are excited, is that 


by which external influences determine the movements 
of the body, in the abnormal state. But does the state 
of consciousness, which we term a tactile sensation, 
accompany the operation of this nervous apparatus in the 
abnormal state ? or is consciousness utterly absent, the 
man being reduced to an insensible mechanism ? 

It is impossible to obtain direct evidence in favour 
of the one conclusion or the other ; all that can be said 
is, that the case of the frog shows that the man may be 
devoid of any kind of consciousness, 

A further difficult problem is this. The man is in- 
sensible to sensory impressions made through the ear, 
the nose, the tongue, and, to a great extent, the eye ; nor 
is he susceptible of pain from causes operating during 
his abnormal state. Nevertheless, it is possible so to act 
upon his tactile apparatus, as to give rise to those mo- 
lecular changes in his sensorium, which are ordinarily 
the causes of associated trains of ideas. I give a strik- 
ing example of this process in Dr. Mesnet's words : 

" II se promenait dans le jardin, sous un massif d'arbres, on ltd 
remet a la main sa canne qu'il avait Iaiss6 tomber quelques minutes 
avant. II la palpe, promdne d plusieurs reprises la main sur la 
poignee coud6e de sa canne devient attentif semble prater Toreille 
et, tout-a-coup, appelle 'Henri! ' Puis, 4 Les voilaJ Us sont an 
moins une yingtaine I d nons deux, nous en viendrons a bout! ' Et 
alors portant la main derri&re son dos comme pour prendre une car- 
touche, il fait le mouvement de charger son arme, se couche dans 
Therbe & plat ventre, la tete cach<e par un arbre, dans la position 
d'un tirailleur, et suit, Panne epautee, tous les mouvements de Ten- 
nemi qtfil croit voir & courte distance." 

In a subsequent abnormal period. Dr. Mesnet caused 


the patient to repeat this scene by placing him in the 
same conditions. Now, in this case, the question arises 
whether the series of actions constituting this singular 
pantomime was accompanied by the ordinary states of 
consciousness, the appropriate train of ideas, or not? 
Did the man dream that he was skirmishing? or was 
he in the condition of one of Yaucauson's automata 
a senseless mechanism worked by molecular changes in 
his nervous system 2 The analogy of the frog shows that 
the latter assumption is perfectly justifiable. 

The ex-sergeant has a good voice, and had, at one 
time, been employed as a singer at a cafe. In one of 
his abnormal states he was observed to begin humming 
a tune. He then went to his room, dressed himself care- 
fully, and took up some parts of a periodical novel, which 
lay on his bed, as if he were trying to find something. 
Dr. Mesnet, suspecting that he was seeking his music, 
made up one of these into a roll and put it into his hand. 
He appeared satisfied, took up his cane and went down- 
stairs to the door. Here Dr. Mesnet turned him round, 
and he walked quite contentedly, in the opposite direc- 
tion, towards the room of the concierge. The light of 
the sun shining through a window now happened to fall 
upon him, and seemed to suggest the footlights of the 
stage on which he was accustomed to make his appear- 
ance. He stopped, opened his roll of imaginary music, 
put himself into the attitude of a singer, and sang, with 
perfect execution, three songs, one after the other. After 
which he wiped his face with his handkerchief and drank, 


without a grimace, a tumbler of strong vinegar and water 
wMcli was put into Ms hand. 

An experiment winch may be performed upon the 
frog deprived of the fore part of its brain, well known 
as Goltz's " Quak-versuch," affords a parallel to this per- 
formance. If the skin of a certain part of the back of 
such a frog is gently stroked with the finger, it imme- 
diately croaks. It never croaks unless it is so stroked, 
and the croak always follows the stroke, just as the 
sound of a repeater follows the touching of the spring. 
In the frog, this " song " is innate so to speak d priori 
and depends upon a mechanism in the brain governing 
the vocal apparatus, which is set at work by the mo- 
lecular change set up in the sensory nerves of the skin 
of the back by the contact of a foreign body. 

In man there is also a vocal mechanism, and the cry 
of an infant is in the same sense innate and a priori^ 
inasmuch as it depends on an organic relation between 
its sensory nerves and the nervous mechanism which 
governs the vocal apparatus. Learning to speak, and 
learning to sing, are processes by which the vocal mech- 
anism is set to new tunes. A song which has been 
learned has its molecular equivalent, which potentially 
represents it in the brain, just as a musical box wound 
up potentially represents an overture. Touch the stop 
and the overture begins ; send a molecular impulse along 
the proper afferent nerve and the singer begins his song. 

Again, the manner in which the frog, though appar- 
ently insensible to light, is yet, under some circumstances, 


influenced by visual images, finds a singular parallel in 
the case of the ex-sergeant. 

Sitting at a table, in one of his abnormal states, he 
took up a pen, felt for paper and ink, and began to 
write a letter to his general, in which he recommended 
himself for a medal, on account of his good conduct 
and courage. It occurred to Dr. Mesnet to ascertain 
experimentally how far vision was concerned in this act 
of writing. He therefore interposed a screen between 
the man's eyes and his hands ; under these circumstances 
he went on writing for a short time, but the words be- 
came illegible, and he finally stopped, without manifest- 
ing any discontent. On the withdrawal of the screen 
he began to write again where he had left off. The sub- 
stitution of water for ink in the inkstand had a similar 
result. lie stopped, looked at his pen, wiped it on his 
coat, dipped it in the water, and began again, with the 
same effect. 

On one occasion, he began to write upon the top- 
most of ten superimposed sheets of paper. After he 
had written a line or two, this sheet was suddenly drawn 
away. There was a slight expression of surprise, but he 
continued his letter on the second sheet exactly as if it 
had been the first. This operation was repeated five 
times, so that the fifth sheet contained nothing but the 
writer's signature at the bottom of the page. Never- 
theless, when the signature was finished, his eyes ttirned 
to the top of the blank sheet, and he wont through the 
form of reading over what ho had written, a movement 


of the lips accompanying each word ; moreover, with Ms 
pen, he put in such corrections as were needed, in that 
part of the blank page which, corresponded with the 
position of the words which required correction, in the 
sheets which had been taken away. If the five sheets 
had been transparent, therefore, they would, when super- 
posed, have formed a properly written and corrected 

Immediately after he had written his letter, F 

got up, walked down to the garden, made himself a 
cigarette, lighted and smoked it. He was about to pre- 
pare another, but sought in vain for his tobacco-pouch, 
which had been purposely taken away. The pouch was 
now thrust before his eyes and put under his nose, but 
he neither saw nor smelt it; but, when it was placed 
in his hand, he at once seized it, made a fresh cigar- 
ette, and ignited a match to light the latter. The match 
was blown out, and another lighted match placed close 
before his eyes, but he made no attempt to take it; 
and, if his cigarette was lighted for him, he made no 
attempt to smoke. All this time the eyes were vacant, 
and neither winked, nor exhibited any contraction of the 
pupils. Erom these and other experiments, Dr. Mesnet 
draws the conclusion that his patient sees some things 
and not others ; that the sense of sight is accessible to 
all things which are brought into relation with him by 
the sense of touch, and, on the contrary, insensible to 
things which lie outside this relation. He sees tie match 
he holds, and does not see any other. 


Just so the frog "sees" the book which is in the way 
of his jump, at the same time that isolated visual im- 
pressions take no effect upon him.* 

As I have pointed out, it is impossible to prove that 

F is absolutely unconscious in his abnormal state, 

but it is no less impossible to prove the contrary ; and 
the case of the frog goes a long way to justify the 
assumption that, in the abnormal state, the man is a 
mere insensible machine. 

If such facts as these had come under the knowl- 

* Those who have had occasion to become acquainted with the phe- 
nomena of somnambulism and of mesmerism, will be struck with the close 
parallel which they present to the proceedings of P. in his abnormal state. 
But the great value of Dr. Mesnct's observations lies in the fact that the 
abnormal condition is traceable to a definite injury to the brain, and that 
the circumstances are such as to keep ns clear of the cloud of voluntary 
and involuntary fictions in which the truth is too often smothered in such 
cases. In the unfortunate subjects of such abnormal conditions of the 
brain, the disturbance of the sensory and intellectual faculties is not unfre- 
quently accompanied by a perturbation of the moral nature, which may 
manifest itself in a most astonishing love of lying for its own sake. And, 
in this respect, also, P.'s case is singularly instructive, for though, in his 
normal state, he is a perfectly honest man, in his abnormal condition he is 
an inveterate thief, stealing and hiding away whatever he can lay hands on, 
with much dexterity, and with an absurd indifference as to whether the 
property is his own or not. Hoffman's terrible conception of the " Doppelt- 
ganger " is realised by men in this state who live two lives, in the one of 
which they may be guilty of the moat criminal acts, while, in the other, 
they are eminently virtuous and respectable. Neither life knows anything 
of the other. Dr. Mesnet states that he has watched a man in his abnor- 
mal state elaborately prepare to hang himself, and has let him go oa until 
asphyxia set in, when he cut him down. But on passing into the normal 
state the would-be suicide was wholly ignorant of what had happened. The 
problem of responsibility is here as complicated as that of the prince- 
bishop, who swore as a prince and not as a bishop, ** But, highness, if the 
prince is damned, what will become of the bishop f ' said the peasant* 


edge of Descartes, would they not have formed an apt 
commentary upon that remarkable passage in the " Traite 
de THomme," which I have quoted elsewhere,* tut 
which is worth repetition? 

"All the functions which I have attributed to this machine (the 
"body), as the digestion of food, the pulsation of the heart and of the 
arteries; the nutrition and the growth of the limbs; respiration, 
wakefulness, and sleep; the reception of light, sounds, odours, fla- 
vours, heat, and such like qualities, in the organs of the external 
senses ; the impression of the ideas of these in the organ of com- 
mon sensation and in the imagination ; the retention or the impres- 
sion of these ideas on the memory ; the internal movements of the 
appetites and the passions ; and lastly the external movements of all 
the limbs, which follow so aptly, as well the action of the objects 
which are presented to the senses, as the impressions which meet in 
the memory, that they imitate as nearly as possible those of area! 
man ; I desire, I say, that yon should consider that these functions 
in the machine naturally proceed from the mere arrangement of its 
organs, neither more nor less than do the movements of a clock, or 
other automaton, from that of its weights and its wheels ; so that, 
so far as these are concerned, it is not necessary to conceive any- 
other vegetative or sensitive soul, nor any other principle of motion 
or of life, than the blood and the spirits agitated by the fire which 
burns continually in the heart, and which is no wise essentially dif- 
ferent from all the fires which, exist in inanimate bodies." 

And would Descartes not have been justified in asking 
why we need deny that animals are machines, when 
men, in a state of unconsciousness, perform, mechanic- 
ally, actions as complicated and as seemingly rational as 
those of any animals? 

But though I do not think that Descartes' hypothesis 
can "be positively refuted, I am not disposed to accept 
it.* The doctrine of continuity is too well established 

* " Lay Sermons, Essays and Eeviews," p. 355. 


for it to be permissible to me to suppose that any com- 
plex natural phenomenon comes into existence suddenly, 
and without being preceded by simpler modifications ; 
and very strong arguments would be needed to prove 
that such complex phenomena, as those of conscious- 
ness, first make their appearance in man. We know, 
that, in the individual man, consciousness grows from a 
dim glimmer to its full light, whether we consider the 
infant advancing in years, or the adult emerging from 
slumber and swoon. "We know, further, that the lower 
animals possess, though less developed, that part of the 
brain which we have every reason to believe to be the 
organ of consciousness in man ; and as, in other cases, 
function and organ are proportional, so we have a right 
to conclude it is with the brain; and that the brutes, 
though they may not possess our intensity of conscious- 
ness, and though, from the absence of language, they 
can have no trains of thoughts, b\it only trains of feel- 
ings, yet have a consciousness which, more or less dis- 
tinctly, foreshadows our own. 

I confess that, in view of the struggle for existence 
which goes on in the animal world, and of the fright- 
ful quantity of pain with which it must be accompanied, 
I should be glad if the probabilities were in favour of 
Descartes' hypothesis ; but, on the other hand, consider- 
ing the terrible practical consequences to domestic ani- 
mals which might ensue from any error on our part, it 
is as well to err on the right side, if we err at all, and 
deal with them as weaker brethren, who are bound, like 


the rest of ns, to pay their toll for living, and suffer 
what is needful for the general good. As Hartley finely 
says, "We seem to be in the place of God to them;" 
and we may justly follow the precedents He sets in 
nature in our dealings with them. 

But though we may see reason to disagree with Des- 
cartes' hypothesis that brutes are unconscious machines, 
it does not follow that he was wrong in regarding them 
as automata. They may be more or less conscious, sen- 
sitive, automata; and the view that they are such con- 
scious machines is that which is implicitly, or explicitly, 
adopted by most persons. "When we speak of the ac- 
tions of the lower animals being guided by instinct and 
not by reason, what we really mean is that, though they 
feel as we do, yet their actions are the results of their 
physical organisation. We believe, in short, that they are 
machines, one part of which (the nervous system) not 
only sets the rest in motion, and co-ordinates its move- 
ments in relation with changes in surrounding bodies, 
but is provided with special apparatus, the function of 
which is the calling into existence of those states of con- 
sciousness which are termed sensations, emotions, and 
ideas. I believe that this generally accepted view is 
the best expression of the facts at present known. 

It is experimentally demonstrable any one who cares 
to run a pin into himself may perform a sufficient dem- 
onstration of the fact that a mode of motion of the 
nervous system is the immediate antecedent of a state 
of consciousness. All but the adherents of " Occasion- 


alism," or of the doctrine of "Pre-established Har- 
mony" (if any such now exist), must admit that we 
have as much reason for regarding the mode of motion 
of the nervous system as the cause of the state of con- 
sciousness, as we have for regarding any event as the 
cause of another. How the one phenomenon causes the 
other we know, as much or as little, as in any other case 
of causation ; but we have as much right to believe that 
the sensation is an effect of the molecular change, as we 
have to believe that motion is an effect of impact ; and 
there is as much propriety in saying that the brain 
evolves sensation, as there is in saying that an iron rod, 
when hammered, evolves heat. 

As I have endeavoured to show, we are justified in 
supposing that something analogous to what happens in 
ourselves takes place in the brutes, and that the affec- 
tions of their sensory nerves give rise to molecular 
changes in the brain, which again give rise to, or evolve, 
the corresponding states of consciousness. Nor can there 
be any reasonable doubt that the emotions of brutes, and 
such ideas as they possess, are similarly dependent upon 
molecular brain changes. Each sensory impression leaves 
"behind a record in the structure of the brain an " idea- 
genous" molecule, so to speak, winch is competent, tin- 
der certain conditions, to reproduce, in a fainter condi- 
tion, the state of consciousness which corresponds with 
that sensory impression; and it is these "ideagenous 
molecules 3 ' which are the physical basis of memory. 

It may "be assumed, then, that molecular changes in 


the brain are tlie causes of all the states of conscious- 
ness of brutes. Is there any evidence that these states 
of consciousness may, conversely, cause those molecular 
changes which give rise to muscular motion? I see no 
such evidence. The frog walks, hops, swims, and goes 
through his gymnastic performances quite as well with- 
out consciousness, and consequently without volition, as 
with it ; and, if a frog, in his natural state, possesses any- 
thing corresponding with what we call volition, there is 
no reason to think that it is anything but a concomi- 
tant of the molecular changes in the brain which form 
part of the series involved in the production of mo- 

The consciousness of brutes would appear to be re- 
lated to the mechanism of their body simply as a col- 
lateral product of its working, and to be as completely 
without any power of modifying that working as the 
steam-whistle which accompanies the work of a locomo- 
tive engine is without influence upon its machinery. 
Their volition, if they have any, is an emotion indica- 
tive of , physical changes, not a cause of such changes. 

This conception of the relations of states of con- 
sciousness with molecular changes in the brain of psy- 
choses with neicroses does not prevent us from ascrib- 
ing free will to brutes. For an agent is free when 
there is nothing to prevent him from doing that which 
he desires to do. If a greyhound chases a hare, he is 
a free agent, because his action is in entire accordance 
with his strong desire to catch the hare ; while so long 


as lie is held back by the leash he is not free, being 
prevented by external force from following his inclina- 
tion, And the ascription of freedom to the greyhound 
under the former circumstances is by no means incon- 
sistent with the other aspect of the facts of the case 
that he is a machine impelled to the chase, and caused, 
at the same time, to have the desire to catch the game 
by the impression which the rays of light proceeding 
from the hare make upon his eyes, and through them, 
upon his brain. 

Much ingenious argument has, at various times, been 
bestowed npon the question : How is it possible to im- 
agine that volition, which is a state of consciousness, 
and, as such, has not the slightest community of nature 
with matter in motion, can act upon the moving matter 
of which the body is composed, as it is assumed to do 
in voluntary acts ? But if, as is here suggested, the 
voluntary acts of brutes or, in other words, the acts 
which they desire to perform are as purely mechanical 
as the rest of their actions, and are simply accompanied 
by the state of consciousness called volition, the inquiry, 
so far as they are concerned, becomes superfluous. Their 
volitions do not enter into the chain of causation of their 
actions at all. 

The hypothesis that brutes are conscious automata 
is perfectly consistent with any view that may be held 
respecting the often discussed and curious question 
whether they have souls or not ; and, if they have souls, 
whether those souls are immortal or not. It is obvioiisly 


harmonious with the most literal adherence to the text 
of Scripture concerning " the beast that perishetli ; " but 
it is not inconsistent with the amiable eoiivietion as- 
cribed by Pope to his "untutored savage/ 3 that when 
he passes to the happy hunting-grounds in the sky, " Ms 
faithful dog shall bear him company, 39 If the brutes 
have consciousness and no souls, then it is clear that, in 
them, consciousness is a direct function of material 
changes; while, if they possess immaterial subjects of 
consciousness, or souls, then, as consciousness is brought 
into existence only as the consequence of molecular mo- 
tion of the brain, it follows that it is an indirect product 
of material changes. The soul stands related to the 
body as the bell of a clock to the works, and conscious- 
ness answers to the sound which, the bell gives out when 
it is struck. 

Thus far I have strictly confined myself to the prob- 
lem with which I proposed to deal at starting the au- 
tomatism of brutes. The question is, I believe, a per- 
fectly open one, and I feel happy in running no risk of 
either Papal or Presbyterian condemnation for the views 
which I have ventured to put forward. And there are 
so very few interesting questions which one is, at pres- 
ent, allowed to think out scientifically to go as far as 
reason leads, and stop where evidence comes to an end 
without speedily being deafened by the tattoo of "the 
drum ecclesiastic" that I have luxuriated in my rare 
freedom, and would now willingly bring this disquisition 
to an end if I could hope that other people would go 


no farther. Unfortunately, past experience debars me 
from entertaining any such hope, even if 

" that drum's discordant sound 

Parading round and round and round, 1 ' 

were not, at present, as audible to me, as it was to the 
mild poet who ventured to express his hatred of drums 
in general, in that well-known couplet. 

It will be said, that I mean that the conclusions de- 
duced from the study of the brutes are applicable to 
man, and that the logical consequences of such applica- 
tion are fatalism, materialism, and atheism whereupon 
the drums will beat the pas de charge. 

One does not do battle with drummers; but I ven- 
ture to offer a few remarks for the calm consideration of 
thoughtful persons, untrammelled by foregone conclu- 
sions, unpledged to shore-up tottering dogmas, and anx- 
ious only to know the true bearings of the case. 

It is quite true that, to the best of my judgment, the 
argumentation which applies to brutes holds equally 
good of men ; and, therefore, that all states of conscious- 
ness in us, as in them, are immediately caused by mo- 
lecular changes of the brain-substance. It seems to me 
that in men, as in brutes, there is no proof that any 
state of consciousness is the cause of change in. the mo- 
tion of the matter of the organism. If these positions 
are well based, it follows that our mental conditions are 
simply the symbols in consciousness of the changes 
which take place automatically in the organism; and 
that, to take an extreme illustration, the feeling we call 


volition is not the cause of a voluntary act, but the sym- 
bol of that state of the brain which is the immediate 
cause of that act. We are conscious automata, endowed 
with free will in the only intelligible sense of that much- 
abused term inasmuch as in many respects we are able 
to do as we like but none the less parts of the great 
series of causes and effects which, in unbroken continuity, 
composes that which is, and has been, and shall be the 
sum of existence. 

As to the logical consequences of this conviction of 
mine, I may be permitted to remark that logical con- 
sequences are the scarecrows of fools and the beacons of 
wise men. The only question which any wise man can 
ask himself, and which any honest man will ask himself, 
is whether a doctrine is true or false* Consequences 
will take care of themselves ; at most their importance 
can only justify us in testing with extra care the reason- 
ing process from which they result. 

So that if the view I have taken did really and logic- 
ally lead to fatalism, materialism, and atheism, I should 
profess myself a fatalist, materialist, and atheist; and 
I should look upon those who, while they believed in 
my honesty of purpose and intellectual competency, 
should raise a hue and cry against me ? as people who 
by their own admission preferred lying to truth, and 
whose opinions therefore were unworthy of the smallest 

But, as I have endeavoured to explain on other occa- 
sions, I really have no claim to rank myself among fatal- 


istic, materialistic, or atheistic philosophers. Not among 
fatalists, for I take the conception of necessity to have a 
logical, and not a physical foundation ; not among ma- 
terialists, for I am utterly incapable of conceiving the 
existence of matter if there is no mind in which to pic- 
ture that existence; not among atheists, for the prob- 
lem of the ultimate cause of existence is one which 
seems to me to be hopelessly out of reach of my poor 
powers. Of all the senseless babble I have ever Lad 
occasion to read, the demonstrations of these philosophers 
who undertake to tell us all about the nature of God 
would be the worst, if they were not surpassed by the 
still greater absurdities of the philosophers who try to 
prove that there is no God. 

And if this personal disclaimer should not be enough, 
let me further point out that a great many persons whose 
acuteness and learning will not be contested, and whose 
Christian piety, and, in some cases, strict orthodoxy, are 
above suspicion, have held more or less definitely the 
view that man is a conscious automaton. 

It is held, for example, in substance, by the whole 
school of predestinarian theologians, typified by St. Au- 
gustine, Calvin, and Jonathan Edwardsthe great work 
of the latter on the will showing in this, as in other 
cases, that the growth of physical science has introduced 
no new difficulties of principle into theological problems, 
but has merely given visible body, as it were, to those 
which already existed. 

Among philosophers, the pious Goulincx and the 


whole school of oecasionalist Cartesians held this view ; 
the orthodox Leibnitz invented the term " automate 
spiritual," and applied it to man ; the fervent Christian, 
Hartley, was one of the chief advocates and test exposi- 
tors of the doctrine ; while another zealous apologist of 
Christianity in a sceptical age, and a contemporary of 
Hartley, Charles Bonnet, the Genevese naturalist, has 
embodied the doctrine in language of such precision and 
simplicity, that I will quote the little-known passage of 
his "Essai de Psycliologie " at length : 


u Philosophers accustomed to judge of things "by that which they 
are in themselves, and not by their relation to received ideas, would 
not he shocked if they met with the proposition that the soul is a 
mere spectator of the movements of its hody : that the latter per- 
forms of itself all that series of actions which constitutes life : that 
it moves of itself; that it is the hody alone which reproduces ideas, 
compares and arranges them ; which forms reasonings, imagines and 
executes plans of all lands, etc. This hypothesis, though perhaps 
of an excessive holdness, nevertheless deserves some consideration. 

" It is not to he denied that Supreme Power could create an au- 
tomaton which should exactly imitate all the external and internal 
actions of man. 

" I understand hy external actions, all those movements which 
pass under our eyes; I term internal actions, all the motions 
which in the natural state cannot he observed because they take 
place in the interior of the body such as the movements of diges- 
tion, circulation, sensation, etc. Moreover, I include in this cate- 
gory the movements which give rise to ideas, whatever be their 

" In the automatou which we are considering everything would 
be precisely determined. Everything would occur according to the 
rules of the most admirable mechanism: one state would succeed 

* " Essai de Psychologic," chap, xxvii. 


another state, one operation would lead to another operation, ac- 
cording to invariable laws ; motion would become alternately cause 
and effect, effect and cause ; reaction would answer to action, and 
reproduction to production. 

" Constructed with definite relations to the activity of the beings 
which compose the world, the automaton would receive impressions 
from it, and, in faithful correspondence thereto, it would execute a 
corresponding series of motions. 

" Indifferent towards any determination, it would yield equally 
to all, if the first impressions did not, so to speak, wind up the ma- 
chine and decide its operations and its course. 

u The series of movements which this automaton could execute 
would distinguish it from all others formed on the same model, 
but which, not having been placed in similar circumstances, would 
not have experienced tho same impressions, or would not have ex- 
perienced thorn in the same order. 

u Tho senses of the automaton, set in motion by the objects pre- 
sented to it, would communicate their motion to the brain, the 
chief motor apparatus of tho machine. This would put in action 
the muscles of tho hands and foot, in virtue of their secret connec- 
tion with tho senses. Those muscles, alternately contracted and 
dilated, would approximate or remove tho automaton from the ob- 
jects, in the relation which they would boar to the conservation or 
the destruction of tho machine, 

" Tho motions of perception and sensation which tho objects 
would have impressed on tho brain, would be preserved in it by the 
energy of its mechanism. Thoy would become more vivid accord- 
ing to the actual condition of tho automaton, considered in itsolf 
and relatively to the objects. 

u Words being only the motions impressed on the organ of hear- 
ing and that of voice, tho diversity of these movements, their com- 
bination, the order in which they would succeed one another, would 
represent judgments, reasoning, and all tho operations of the mind. 

" A close correspondence between the organs of the senses, either 
by tho opening into one another of their nervous ramifications, or 
by interposed springs (ressort^ would establish such a connection in 
their working, that, on the occasion of the movements impressed 
on one of those organs, other movements would bo excited, or would 
become more vivid in some of tho other senses. 

u Give the automaton a soul which contemplates its movements, 


which "believes itself to be the antlior of them, which, lias different 
volitions on the occasion of the different movements, and yon will 
on this hypothesis construct a man. 

"But would this man be free? Can the feeling of our liberty, 
this feeling which is so clear and so distinct and so vivid as to per- 
suade ns that we are the authors of our actions, be conciliated with 
this hypothesis ? If it removes the difficulty which attends the con- 
ception of the action of the soul on the body, on the other hand it 
leaves untouched that which meets us in endeavouring to conceive 
the action of the body on the soul." 

But if Leibnitz, Jonathan Edwards, and Hartley 
men. who rank among the giants of the world of thought 
could see no antagonism between the doctrine under 
discussion and Christian orthodoxy, is it not just possible 
that smaller folk may be wrong in making such a coil 
about " logical consequences w ? And seeing how large 
a share of this clamour is raised by the clergy of one 
denomination or another, may I say, in conclusion, that 
it really would be well if ecclesiastical persons would 
reflect that ordination, whatever deep-seated graces it 
may confer, has never been observed to be followed by 
any visible increase in the learning or the logic of its 
subject. Making a man a Bishop, or entrusting Mm 
with the office of ministering to even the largest of 
Presbyterian congregations, or setting him up to lecture 
to a Ohurch congress, really does not in the smallest de- 
gree augment such title to respect as his opinions may 
intrinsically possess. And, when such a man presumes 
on an authority which was conferred upon him for other 
purposes, to sit in judgment upon matters his incompe- 
tence to deal with which is patent, it is permissible to 


ignore his sacerdotal pretensions, and to tell him, as one 
would tell a mere common, unconsecrated layman : that 
it is not necessary for any man to occupy himself with 
problems of this kind unless he so choose ; life is filled 
full enough by the performance of its ordinary and obvi- 
ous duties. But that, if a man elect to become a judge 
of these grave questions; still more, if he assume the 
responsibility of attaching praise or blame to his fellow- 
men for the conclusions at which they arrive touch- 
ing them, he will commit a sin more grievous than most 
breaches of the Decalogue, unless lie avoid a lazy reli- 
ance upon the information that is gathered by prejudice 
and filtered through passion, unless he go back to the 
prime sources of knowledge the facts of nature, and 
the thoughts of those wise men who for generations 
past have been her best interpreters. 


THE maxim tliat metaphysical inquiries are "barren 
of result, and that the serious occupation of the mind 
with them is a mere waste of time and labour, finds 
much favour in the eyes of the many persons who 
pride themselves on the possession of sound common 
sense ; and we sometimes hear it enunciated by weighty 
authorities, as if its natural consequence, the suppression 
of such studies, had the force of a moral obligation. 

In this case, however, as in some others, those who 
lay down the law seem to forget that a wise legislator 
will consider, not merely whether his proposed enact- 
ment is desirable, but whether obedience to it is possible. 
For, if the latter question is answered negatively, the 
former is surely hardly worth debate. 

Here, in fact, lies the pith of the reply to those 
who would make metaphysics contraband of intellect. 
"Whether it is desirable to place a prohibitory duty upon 
philosophical speculations or not, it is utterly impos- 
sible to prevent the importation of them into the mind. 
And it is not a little curious to observe that those who 


most loudly profess to abstain from such commodities 
are, all tlie while, unconscious consumers, on a great 
scale, of one or other of their multitudinous disguises 
or adulterations. "With mouths full of the particular 
kind of heavily buttered toast which they affect, they 
inveigh against the eating of plain bread. In truth, the 
attempt to nourish the human intellect upon a diet 
which contains no metaphysics is about as hopeful as 
that of certain Eastern sages to nourish their bodies 
without destroying life. Everybody has heard the story 
of the pitiless microscopist, who ruined the peace of 
mind of one of these mild enthusiasts by showing him 
the animals moving in a drop of the water with which, 
in the imiocency of his heart, he slaked his thirst ; and 
the unsuspecting devotee of plain common sense may 
look for as unexpected a shock when the magnifier of 
severe logic reveals the germs, if not the full-grown 
shapes, of lively metaphysical postulates rampant amidst 
his most positive and matter-of-fact notions. 

By way of escape from the metaphysical "Will-o'- 
the-wisps generated in the marshes of literature and 
theology, the serious student is sometimes bidden to 
betake himself to the solid ground of physical science. 
But the fish of immortal memory, who threw himself 
out of the frying-pan into the fire, was not more ill 
advised than the man who seeks sanctuary from philo- 
sophical persecution within the walls of the observatory 
or of the kboratory. It is said that " metaphysics " owe 
their name to the fact that, in Aristotle's works, 


tions of pure philosophy are dealt with immediately 
after those of physics. If so, the accident is happily 
symbolical of the essential relations of things ; for meta- 
physical speculation follows as closely upon physical 
theory as black care upon the horseman. 

One need but mention such fundamental, and in- 
deed indispensable, conceptions of the natural philoso- 
pher as those of atoms and forces : or that of attraction 
considered as action at a distance ; or that of potential 
energy ; or the antinomies of a vacuum and a plenum ; 
to call to mind the metaphysical background of physics 
and chemistry ; while, in the biological sciences, the 
case is still worse. "What is an individual among the 
lower plants and animals? Are genera and species 
realities or abstractions ? Is there such a thing as Yital 
Force ? or does the name denote a mere relic of meta- 
physical fetichism? Is the doctrine of final causes 
legitimate or illegitimate? These are a few of the 
metaphysical topics which are suggested by the most 
elementary study of biological facts. But, more than 
this, it may be truly said that the roots of every system 
of philosophy lie deep among the facts of physiology. 
No one can doubt that the organs and the functions 
of sensation are as much a part of the province of 
the physiologist, as are the organs and functions of 
motion, or those of digestion ; and yet it is impossible 
to gain an acquaintance with even the rudiments of 
the physiology of sensation without being led straight 
to one of the most fundamental of all metaphysical 


problems. In fact, the sensory operations have been, 
from time immemorial, the battle-ground of philosophers. 
I have more than once taken occasion to point out 
that we are indebted to Descartes, who happened to be a 
physiologist as well as a philosopher, for the first distinct 
enunciation of the essential elements of the true theory 
of sensation. In later times, it is not to the works of the 
philosophers, if Hartley and James Mill are exeepted, 
but to those of the physiologists, that we must turn for 
an adequate account of the sensory process. Haller's 
luminous, though summary, account of sensation in his 
admirable "Primse Lineas, 5 ' the first edition of which 
was printed in 1747, offers a striking contrast to the 
prolixity and confusion of thought which pervade Reid's 
a Inquiry," of seventeen years' later date.* x ~ Even Sir 
William Hamilton, learned historian and acute critic as 
he was, not only failed to apprehend the philosophical 
bearing of long-established physiological truths ; but, 
when he affirmed that there is no reason to deny that the 
mind feels at the finger points, and none to assert that 
the brain is the sole organ of thought, f he showed that 

* In justice to Reid, however, it should be stated that the chapters on 
sensation in the " Essays on the Intellectual Powers " (1788) exhibit a great 
improvement. lie is, in fact, in advance of his commentator, as the note 
to Essay II. chap. ii. p. 248 of Hamilton's edition shows. 

f Ilaller, amplifying Descartes, writes in the " Primas Lincsa," OOOLXVI. 
- ** JSToa est adeo obscurum sensum omnem oriri ab objecti sensibilis im- 
presaione In nervum quemeumque corporis humani, et earadcm per cum 
nervum ad cerebrum perveinentem tune demum represontari animss, quando 
cerebrum adtigit. tjt etiam hoc falsum ait animam inproxitno per sensoria 
nervorumque ramos aentiro," . . . BLVIL '"Bum ergo sentimuB quinque 
diversiasima entia conjunguntur; corpus quod sentimus: organ! sensorii 


he had not apprehended the significance of the revolu- 
tion commenced, two hundred years before his time, by 
Descartes, and effectively followed up by Haller, Hart- 
ley, and Bonnet, in the middle of the last century. 

In truth, the theory of sensation, except in one point, 
is, at the present moment, very much where Hartley, led 
by a hint of Sir Isaac ^Newton's, left it, when, a hundred 
and twenty years since, the " Observations on Man : his 
Frame, his Duty, and his Expectations," was laid before 
the world. The whole matter is put in a nutshell in the 
following passages of this notable book. 

" External objects impressed upon the senses occasion, first on 
the nerves on which they are impressed, and then on the brain, 
vibrations of the small and, as we may say, infinitesimal medullary 

" These vibrations are motions backwards and forwards of the 
small particles ; of the same kind with the oscillations of pendulums 
and the tremblings of the particles of sounding bodies. They must 
be conceived to be exceedingly short and small, so as not to have 
the least efficacy to disturb or move the whole bodies of the nerves 
or brain." * 

" The white medullary substance of the brain is also the imme- 
diate instrument by which ideas are presented to the mind ; or, in 
other words, whatever changes are made in this substance, corre- 
sponding changes are made in our ideas ; and vice versa." f 

adfectio ab eo corpore: cerebri adfectio a sensorii percussione nata: in 
anima nata mutatio : anirase denique conscieniaa et sensationis adperceptio." 
Nevertheless, Sir William Hamilton gravely informs Ms hearers : " We 
have no more right to deny that the mind feels at the finger points, as con- 
sciousness assures us, than to assert that it thinks exclusively in tne brain." 
" Lecture on Metaphysics and Logic," ii. p. 128. " We have no reason 
whatever to doubt the report of consciousness, that we actually perceive at 
the external point of sensation, and that we perceive the material reality." 
Ibid, p. 129. * " Observations on Man," vol. i. p. 11. 

f Ibid. p. 8. The speculations of Bonnet are remarkably similar to 


Hartley, like Haller, had no conception of the nature 
and functions of the grey matter of the brain. But, if 
for " white medullary substance," in the latter paragraph, 
we substitute "grey cellular substance," Hartley's propo- 
sitions embody the most probable conclusions which are 
to be drawn from the latest investigations of physiolo- 
gists. In order to judge how completely this is the case, 
it will be well to study some simple case of sensation, 
and, following the example of Keid and of James Mill, 
we may begin with the sense of smell. Suppose that I 
become aware of a musky scent, to which the name of 
" muskiness J? may be given. I call this an odour, and I 
class it along with the feelings of light, colours, sounds, 
tastes, and the like, among those phenomena which are 
known as sensations. To say that I am aware of this 
phenomenon, or that I have it, or that it exists, are 
simply different modes of affirming the same facts. If I 
am asked how I know that it exists, I can only reply that 
its existence and my knowledge of it are one and the 
same thing ; in short, that my knowledge is immediate 
or intuitive, and, as such, is possessed of the highest con- 
ceivable degree of certainty. 

The pure sensation of muskiness is almost sure to be 
followed by a mental state which is not a sensation, but a 
"belief, that there is somewhere close at hand a something 
on which the existence of the sensation depends. It may 

those of Hartley ; and they appear to have originated independently, though 
the"Essai de Psychologic' 1 (1754) is of five years' later date than the 
" Observations on Man" (1740). 


be a musk-deer, or a musk-rat, or a musk-plant, or a grain 
of dry musk, or simply a scented handkerchief ; but 
former experience leads us to believe that the sensation 
is due to the presence of one or other of these objects, 
and that it will vanish if the object is removed. In 
other words, there arises a belief in an external cause of 
the muskiness, which, in common language, is termed an 
odorous body. 

But the manner in which this belief is usually put 
into words is strangely misleading. If we are dealing 
with a musk-plant, for example, we do not confine our- 
selves to a simple statement of that which we believe, 
and say that the musk-plant is the cause of the sensation 
called muskiness ; but we say that the plant has a musky 
smell, and we speak of the odour as a quality, or prop- 
erty, inherent in the plant. And the inevitable reaction 
of words upon thought has in this case become so com- 
plete, and has penetrated so deeply, that when an ac- 
curate statement of the case namely, that muskiness, 
inasmuch as the term denotes nothing but a sensation, is 
a mental state, and has no existence except as a mental 
phenomenon is first brought under the notice of com- 
mon-sense folks, it is usually regarded by them as what 
they are pleased to call a mere metaphysical paradox and 
a patent example of useless subtlety. Tet the slightest 
reflection must suffice to convince any one possessed of 
sound reasoning faculties, that it is as absurd to suppose 
that muskiness is a quality inherent in one plant, as it 
would be to imagine that pain is a quality inherent in 


another, because we feel pain when a thorn pricks the 

Even the common-sense philosopher, par excellence^ 
says of smell : " It appears to be a simple and original 
affection or feeling of the mind, altogether inexplicable 
and unaccountable. It is indeed impossible that it can 
be in any body : it is a sensation, and a sensation can 
only be in a sentient thing. 5 ' * 

That which is true of musldncss is true of every 
other odour. Lavender-smell, clove-smell, garlic-smell, 
are, like " nmskiness," names of states of consciousness, 
and have no existence except as such. But, in ordinary 
language, we speak of all these odours as if they were 
independent entities residing in lavender, cloves, and 
garlic ; and it is not without a certain straggle that the 
false metaphysic of so-called common sense, thus in- 
grained in us, is expelled. 

For the present purpose, it is unnecessary to inquire 
into the origin of our belief in external bodies, or into 
that of the notion of causation. Assuming the existence 
of an external world, there is no difficulty in obtaining 
experimental proof that, as a general rule, olfactory sen- 

* " An Inquiry into the Human Mind on the Principles of Common 
Sense," chap. ii. 2. Reid affirms that " it is genius, and not the want of 
it, that adulterates philosophy, and fills it with error and fatao theory ; n 
and no doubt Inn own lucubrations are free from the smallest taint of the 
impurity to which he objects. But, for want of something more than that 
sort of "common sense," which is very common and a little dull, the con- 
temner of genius did not notice that the admission here made knocks so big 
a hole iu the bottom of u common sense philosophy," that nothing can save 
it from foundering in the dreaded abyss of Idealism, 


sations are caused by odorous bodies ; and we may pass 
on to the next step of the inquiry namely, how the 
odorous body produces the effect attributed to it. 

The first point to be noted here is another fact re- 
vealed by experience ; that the appearance of the sensa- 
tion is governed, not only by the presence of the odorous 
substance, but by the condition of a certain part of our 
corporeal structure, the nose. If the nostrils are closed, 
the presence of the odorous substance does not give rise 
to the sensation ; while, when they are open, the sensa- 
tion is intensified by the approximation of the odorous 
substance to them, and by snuffing up the adjacent air in 
such a manner as to draw it into the nose. On the other 
hand, looking at an odorous substance, or rubbing it on 
the skin, or holding it to the ear, does not awaken the 
sensation. Thus, it can be readily established by experi- 
ment that the perviousness of the nasal passages is, in 
some way, essential to the sensory function ; in fact, that 
the organ of that function is lodged somewhere in the 
nasal passages. And, since odorous bodies give rise to 
their effects at considerable distances, the suggestion is 
obvious that something must pass from them into the 
sense organ. "Whafc is this " something, 33 which plays 
the part of an intermediary between the odorous body 
and the sensory organ? 

The oldest speculation about the matter dates back 
to Democritus and the Epicurean School, and it is to be 
found fully stated in the fourth book of Lucretius. It 
comes to this : that the surfaces of bodies are constantly 


throwing off excessively attenuated films of their own 
substance : and that these films, reaching the mind, ex- 
cite the appropriate sensations in it. 

Aristotle did not admit the existence of any such 
material films, but conceived that it was the form of the 
substance, and not its matter, which affected sense, as a 
seal impresses wax, without losing anything in the pro- 
cess. "While many, if not the majority, of the School- 
men took up an intermediate position and supposed that 
a something, which was not exactly either material or 
immaterial, and which they called an " intentional spe- 
cies," effected the needful communication between the 
bodily cause of sensation and the mind. 

But all these notions, whatever may be said for or 
against them in general, are fundamentally defective, by 
reason of an oversight which was inevitable, in the state 
of knowledge at the time in which they were promul- 
gated. What the older philosophers did not know, and 
could not know, before the anatomist arid the physiolo- 
gist had done their work, is that, between the external 
object and that mind in which they supposed the sensa- 
tion to inhere, there lies a physical obstacle. The sense 
organ is not a mere passage by which the " tenuia simu- 
lacra rerum," or the "intentional species" cast off by 
objects, or the " forms " of sensible things, pass straight 
to the mind ; oil the contrary, it stands as a firm and 
impervious barrier, through which no material particle 
of the world without can make its way to the world 


Let us consider the olfactory sense organ more near- 
ly. Each of the nostrils leads into a passage completely 
separated from the other by a partition, and these two 
passages place the nostrils in free communication with 
the back of the throat, so that they freely transmit the 
air passing to the lungs when the mouth is shut, as in 
ordinary breathing. The floor of each passage is flat, 
bnt its roof is a high arch, the crown of which is seated 
between the orbital cavities of the skull, which serve for 
the lodgment and protection of the eyes ; and it there- 
fore lies behind the apparent limits of that feature 
which, in ordinary language, is called the nose. Erom 
the side walls of the upper and back part of these arched 
chambers, certain delicate plates of bone project, and 
these, as well as a considerable part of the partition be- 
tween the two chambers, are covered by a fine, soft, 
moist membrane. It is to this " Schneiderian," or olfac- 
tory, membrane that odorous bodies must obtain direct 
access, if they are to give rise to their appropriate sensa- 
tions ; and it is upon the relatively large surface, which 
the olfactory membrane offers, that we must seek for 
the seat of the organ of the olfactory sense. The only 
essential part of that organ consists of a multitude of 
minute rod-like bodies, set perpendicularly to the surface 
of the membrane, and forming a part of the cellular 
coat, or epithelium, which covers the olfactory mem- 
brane, as the epidermis covers the skin. In the case 
of the olfactory sense, there can be no doubt that the 
Democritic hypothesis, at any rate for such odorous sub- 


stances as musk, lias a good foundation. Infinitesimal 
particles of musk fly off the surface of the odorous body, 
and, becoming diffused through the air, are carried into 
the nasal passages, and thence into the olfactory cham- 
bers, where they come into contact with the filamentous 
extremities of the delicate olfactory epithelium. 

But this is not all. The " mind " is not, so to speak, 
upon the other side of the epithelium. On the contrary, 
the inner ends of the olfactory cells are connected with 
nerve fibres, and these nerve fibres, passing into the 
cavity of the skull, at length end in a part of the brain, 
the olfactory sensorium. It is certain that the integrity 
of each, and the physical inter-connection of all these 
three structures, the epithelium of the sensory organ, the 
nerve fibres, and the sensoriura, are essential conditions 
of ordinary sensation. That is to say, the air in the 
olfactory chambers may bo charged with particles of 
musk ; but, if cither the epithelium, or the nerve fibres, 
or the sensorium is injured, or if they are physically 
disconnected from one another, sensation will not arise. 
Moreover, the epithelium may be said to be receptive, 
the nerve fibres transmissive, and the sensorium sensi- 
facicnt. For, in the act of smelling, the particles of the 
odorous substance produce a molecular change (which 
Hartley was in all probability right in terming a vibra- 
tion) in the epithelium, and this change being trans- 
mitted to the nerve fibres, parses along them with a 
measurable velocity, and, finally reaching the sensorium, 
is immediately followed by the sensation. 


Thus, modern investigation supplies a representative 
of the Epicurean simulacra in the volatile particles of the 
musk ; but it also gives us the stamp of the particles on 
the olfactory epithelium, without any transmission of 
matter, as the equivalent of the Aristotelian "form;" 
while, finally, the modes of motion of the molecules of 
the olfactory cells, of the nerve, and of the cerebral 
sensorium, which are Hartley's vibrations, may stand 
very well for a double of the " intentional species " of 
the Schoolmen. And this last remark is not intended 
merely to suggest a fanciful parallel ; for, if the cause of 
the sensation is, as analogy suggests, to be sought in the 
mode of motion of the object of sense, then it is quite 
possible that the particular mode of motion of the 
object is reproduced in the sensorium; exactly as the 
diaphragm of a telephone reproduces the mode of motion 
taken up at its receiving end. In other words, the 
secondary " intentional species " may be 5 as the School- 
men thought the primary one was, the last link between 
matter and mind. 

None the less, however, does it remain true that no 
similarity exists, nor indeed is conceivable, between the 
cause of the sensation and the sensation. Attend as 
closely to the sensations of muskiness, or any other 
odour, as we will, no trace of extension, resistance, or 
motion is discernible in them. They have no attribute 
in common with those which we ascribe to matter ; they 
are, in the strictest sense of the words, immaterial entities. 

Thus, the most elementary study of sensation justi* 


fies Descartes' position, tliat we know more of mind 
than we do of body; that the immaterial world is a 
firmer reality than the material. For the sensation 
" mnskiness " is known immediately. So long as it per- 
sists, it is a part of what we call our thinking selves, 
and its existence lies beyond the possibility of doubt. 
The knowledge of an objective or material cause of the 
sensation, on the other hand, is mediate ; it is a belief as 
contradistinguished from an intuition ; and it is a belief 
which, in any given instance of sensation, may, by possi- 
bility, be devoid of foundation. For odours, like other 
sensations, may arise from the occurrence of the appro- 
priate molecular changes in the nerve or in the senso- 
riurn, by the operation of a cause distinct from the 
affection of the sense organ by an odorous body. Such 
"subjective" sensations are as real existences as any 
others, and as distinctly suggest an external odorous ob- 
ject as their cause ; but the belief thus generated is a delu- 
sion. And, if beliefs are properly termed " testimonies 
of consciousness," then undoubtedly the testimony of 
consciousness may be, and often is, untrustworthy. 

Another very important consideration arises out of 
the facts as they are now known. That which, ia the 
absence of a knowledge of the physiology of sensation, 
we call the cause of the smell, and term tlio odorous 
object, is only such, mediately, by reason of its emitting 
particles which give rise to a mode of motion in the 
sense organ. The sense organ, again, is only a mediate 
cause by, reason of its producing a molecular change in 


the nerve fibre; while this last change is also only a 
mediate eanse of sensation, depending, as it does, upon 
the change which it excites in the sensorium. 

The sense organ, the nerve, and the sensorium, taken 
together, constitute the sensiferous apparatus. They 
make up the thickness of the wall between the mind, 
as represented by the sensation muskiness," and the 
object, as represented by the particle of musk in contact 
with the olfactory epithelium. 

It will be observed that the sensiferous wall and the 
external world are of the same nature; whatever it is 
that constitutes them both is expressible in terms of 
matter and motion. "Whatever changes take place in the 
sensiferous apparatus are continuous with, and similar to, 
those which take place in the external world.* But, 

* The following diagrammatic scheme may help to elucidate the theory 

of sensation : 

Mediate Knowledge 

-^ Immediate 

Sensiferous Apparatus Knowledge 

Objects of Sense 

Eeceptive Transmissive Sensificatory 
(Sense Organ) (Nerve) (Sensorium) 

Sensations and 
other States of 

Substance of 

Substance of 

Physical World 

Mental World 

Not Self 


Non-Ego or Object 

Ego or Subject 

Immediate knowledge is confined to states of consciousness, or, in other 
words, to the phenomena of mind. Knowledge of the physical world, or 
of one's own body and of objects external to it, is a system of beliefs or 


with, the sensorium, matter and motion come to an end ; 
while phenomena of another order, or immaterial states 
of consciousness, make their appearance. How is the 
relation between the material and the immaterial phe- 
nomena to be conceived ? This is the metaphysical prob- 
lem of problems, and the solutions which have been 
suggested have been made the corner-stones of systems 
of philosophy. Three mutually irreconcilable readings 
of the riddle have been offered. 

The first is, that an immaterial substance of mind 
exists ; and that it is affected by the mode of motion 
of the sensorium in such, a way as to give rise to the 

The second is, that the sensation is a direct effect of 
the mode of motion of the sensorium, brought about 
without the intervention of any substance of mind. 

The third is, that tlie sensation Is neither directly 
nor indirectly an effect of tlie mode of motion of the 
sensorium, but that it has an independent cause. Prop- 
erly speaking, therefore, it is not an effect of the motion 
of the sensorinm, but a concomitant of it. 

*As none of these hypotheses is capable of even an 
approximation to demonstration, it is almost needless to 
remark that they have been severally held with tenacity 
and advocated with passion. I clo not think it can be 

judgments based on tlie sensations. The term *' self " is applied not only 
to the series of mental phenomena which constitute the ego, but to the 
fragment of the physical world which ia their constant concomitant. The 
corporeal self, therefore, is part of the non-ego ; and is objective in rela- 
tion to the ego as subject, 


said of any of the three that it is Inconceivable, or that 
it can be assumed on d priori grounds to be impossi- 

Consider the first, for example ; an immaterial sub- 
stance is perfectly conceivable. In fact, it is obvious 
that, if we possessed no sensations but those of smell 
and hearing, we should be unable to conceive a material 
substance. We might have a conception of time, but 
could have none of extension, or of resistance or of mo- 
tion. And without the three latter conceptions no idea 
of matter could be formed. Our whole knowledge would 
be limited to that of a shifting succession of immaterial 
phenomena. But, if an immaterial substance may exist, 
it may have any conceivable properties; and sensation 
may be one of them. All these propositions may be 
affirmed with complete dialectic safety, inasmuch as they 
cannot possibly be disproved ; but neither can a particle 
of demonstrative evidence be offered in favour of the 
existence of an immaterial substance. 

As regards the second hypothesis, it certainly is not 
inconceivable, and therefore it may be true, that sensa- 
tion is the direct effect of certain kinds of bodily motion. 
It is just as easy to suppose this as to suppose, on the 
former hypothesis, that bodily motion affects an imma- 
terial substance. But neither is it susceptible of proof. 

And, as to the third hypothesis, since the logic of 
induction is in no case competent to prove that events 
apparently standing in the relation of cause and effect 
may not both be effects of a common cause that also is 


as safe from refutation,, if as incapable of demonstration, 
as the other two. 

In my own opinion, neither of these speculations can 
be regarded seriously as anything but a more or less 
convenient working hypothesis. But, if I must choose 
among them, I take the "law of parcimony" for my 
guide, and select the simplest namely, that the sensa- 
tion is the direct effect of the mode of motion of the 
scnsorium. It may justly be said that this is not the 
slightest explanation of sensation ; but then am I really 
any the wiser, if I say that a sensation is an activity 
(of which I know nothing) of a substance of mind (of 
which also I know nothing) ? Or, if I say that the Deity 
causes the sensation to arise in my mind immediately 
after He has caused the particles of the seusorium to 
move in a certain way, is anything gained 2 In truth, a 
sensation, as we have already seen, is an intuition a 
part of immediate knowledge. As such, it is an ulti- 
mate fact and inexplicable ; and all that we can hope to 
find out about it, and that indeed is worth finding out, 
is its relation to other natural facts. That relation ap- 
pears to me to be sufficiently expressed, for all practical 
purposes, by saying that sensation is the invariable con- 
sequent of certain changes in the sensorium or, in other 
words, that, so far as we know, the change in the sen- 
sorium is the cause of the sensation. 

I permit myself to imagine that the untutored, if 
noble, savage of " common sense ?J who has been misled 
into reading thus fax by the hope of getting positive 


solid information about sensation, giving way to not un- 
natural irritation, may here interpellate : " The upshot 
of all tMs long disquisition is that we are profoundly 
ignorant. We knew that to begin with, and you have 
merely furnished another example of the emptiness and 
uselessness of metaphysics." But I venture to reply. 
Pardon me, you were ignorant, but you did not know it. 
On the contrary, you thought you knew a great deal, 
and were quite satisfied with the particularly absurd 
metaphysical notions which you were pleased to call 
the teachings of common sense. You thought that your 
sensations were properties of external things, and had 
an existence outside of yourself. You thought that you 
knew more about material than you do about immaterial 
existences. And if , as a wise man. has assured us, the 
knowledge of what we don't know is the next best thing 
to the knowledge of what we do know, this brief ex- 
cursion into the province of philosophy has been highly 

Of all the dangerous mental habits, that which 
schoolboys call " cocksureness " is probably the most ' 
perilous ; and the inestimable value of metaphysical dis- 
cipline is that it furnishes an effectual counterpoise to 
this evil proclivity. Whoso has mastered the elements 
of philosophy knows that the attribute of unquestionable 
certainty appertains only to the existence of a state of 
consciousness so long as it exists; all other beliefs are 
mere probabilities of a higher or lower order. Sound 
metaphysic is an amulet which renders its possessor proof 


alike against the poison of superstition and the counter- 
poison of nihilism ; by showing that the affirmations of 
the former and the denials of the latter alike deal with 
matters about which, for lack of evidence, nothing can 
be either affirmed or denied. 

I have dwelt at length upon the nature and origin 
of our sensations of smell, on account of the compara- 
tive freedom of the olfactory sense from the complica- 
tions which are met with in most of the other senses. 

Sensations of taste, however, are generated in almost 
as simple a fashion as those of smell. In this case, the 
sense organ is the epithelium which covers the tongue 
and the palate : and which sometimes, becoming modi- 
fied, gives rise to peculiar organs termed "gustatory 
bulbs," in which the epithelial cells elongate and as- 
sume a somewhat rod-like form. Nerve fibres connect 
the sensory organ witli the sensorium, and tastes or fla- 
vours are states of consciousness caused by the change 
of molecular state of the latter. In the case of the sense 
of touch there is often no sense organ distinct from the 
general epidermis. But many fishes and amphibia ex- 
hibit local modifications of the epidermic cells which are 
sometimes extraordinarily like the gustatory bulbs ; more 
commonly, both in lower and higher animals, the effect 
of the contact of external bodies is intensified by the 
development of hair-like filaments, or of true hairs, the 
bases of which ate in immediate relation with the ends 
of the sensory nerves. Every one must have noticed the 


extreme delicacy o the sensations produced by the con- 
tact of bodies "with the ends of the hairs of the head ; 
and the "whiskers" of cats owe their functional impor- 
tance to the abundant supply of nerves to the follicles 
in which their bases are lodged. "What part, if any, the 
so-called " tactile, corpuscles/' "end bulbs, 3 ' and"Pacini- 
an bodies," play in the mechanism of touch is unknown. 
If they are sense organs, they are exceptional in charac- 
ter, in so far as they do not appear to be modifications 
of the epidermis. Nothing is known respecting the or- 
gans of those sensations of resistance which are grouped 
under the head of the muscular sense ; nor of the sen- 
sations of warmth and cold; nor of that very singular 
sensation which we call tickling. 

In the case of heat and cold, the organism not only 
becomes affected by external bodies, far more remote 
than those which affect the sense of smell; but the 
Democritic hypothesis is obviously no longer permissi- 
ble. When the direct rays of the sun fall upon the 
skin, the sensation of heat is certainly not caused by 
"attenuated films" thrown off from that luminary, but 
is clue to a mode of motion which is transmitted to us. 
In Aristotelian phrase, it is the form without the mat- 
ter of the sun which stamps the sense organ ; and this, 
translated into modern language, means nearly the same 
thing as Hartley's vibrations. Thus we are prepared for 
what happens in the case of the auditory and the visual 
senses. For neither the ear, nor the eye, receives any- 
thing but the impulses or vibrations originated by sonor- 


ous or luminous bodies. Nevertheless, tlie receptive ap- 
paratus still consists of nothing but specially modified 
epithelial cells. In the labyrinth of the ear of the 
higher animals, the free ends of these cells terminate 
in excessively delicate hair-like filaments; while, in the 
lower forms of auditory organ, its free surface is beset 
with delicate hairs like those of the surface of the body, 
and the transmissive nerves are connected with the bases 
of these hairs. Thus there is an insensible gradation in 
the forms of the receptive apparatus, from the organ of 
touch, on the one hand, to those of taste and smell ; and, 
on the other hand, to that of hearing. Even in the case 
of the most refined of all the sense organs, that of vision, 
the receptive apparatus departs but little from the gen- 
eral type. Tho only essential constituent of the visual 
sense organ is the retina, which forms so siiiall a part 
of the eyes of the higher animals ; and the simplest eyes 
are nothing but portions of the integument, in which 
the cells of the epidermis have become converted into 
glassy, rod4ike retinal corpuscles. The outer ends of 
these are turned towards the light ; their sides are more 
or less extensively coated with a dark pigment, and their 
inner ends are connected with the transmissive nerve 
fibres. The light, impinging on these visual rods, pro- 
duces a change in them which is communicated to the 
nerve fibres, and, being transmitted to the scnsorium, 
gives rise to the sensation- if indeed all animals which 
possess eyes are endowed with what we understand as 


In the higher animals, a complicated apparatus of 
lenses, arranged on the principle of a camera obscttra, 
serves at once to concentrate and to individualise the 
pencils of light proceeding from external bodies. But 
the essential part of the organ of vision is still a layer 
of cells, which have the form of rods with truncated or 
conical ends. By what seems a strange anomaly, how- 
ever, the glassy ends of these are turned not towards, 
"but away from, the light ; and the latter has to traverse 
the layer of nervous tissues with which their outer ends 
are connected, before it can affect them. Moreover, the 
rods and cones of the vertebrate retina are so deeply 
seated, and in many respects so peculiar in character, 
that it appears impossible, at first sight, that they can 
have anything to do with that epidermis of which gus- 
tatory and tactile, and at any rate the lower forms of 
auditory and visual, organs are obvious modifications. 

"Whatever be the apparent diversities among the sen- 
siferous apparatuses, however, they share certain com- 
mon characters. Each consists of a receptive, a trans- 
missive, and a sensificatory portion. The essential part 
of the first is an epithelium, of the second, nerve fibres, 
of the third, a part of the brain ; the sensation is always 
the consequence of the mode of motion excited in the 
receptive, and sent along the transmissive, to the sen- 
sificatory part of the sensif erous apparatus. And, in all 
the senses, there is no likeness whatever between the 
object of sense, which is matter in motion, and the sen- 
sation, which is an immaterial phenomenon. 


On the hypothesis which appears to mo to be the 
most convenient, sensation is a product of the sensifer- 
ous apparatus caused by certain modes of motion which 
are set up in it by impulses from without. The sensit 
erons apparatuses are,, as it wore, factories, all of which 
at the one end receive raw materials of a similar kind 
namely, modes of motion while, at the other, each 
turns out a special product, the feeling which constitutes 
the kind of sensation characteristic of it. 

Or, to make use of a closer comparison, each sensif- 
erous apparatus is comparable to a musical-box wound 
up ; with as many tunes as there are separate sensations. 
The object of a simple sensation is the agent which 
presses down the stop of one of these tunes, and the 
more feeble the agent, the more delicate must be the 
mobility of the stop.* 

But, if this be true, if the recipient part of the sen- 
siferous apparatus is, in all cases, merely a mechanism. 
affected by coarser or finer kinds of material motion, 
we might expect to find that all sense organs are funda- 
mentally alike, and resiilt from the modification of the 
same morphological elements. And this is exactly what 
does result fi-om all recent hMological and ombryologi- 
cal investigations, 

It has been seen that the receptive part of the olfac- 
tory apparatus is a slightly modified epithelium, which 
lines an olfactory chamber deeply seated between the 

* " Ohaque fibre oat xme esp&ee de touche ou de marteau dostind & 
rendre un certaia ton," Bonnet, * Essal do Psychologic," chap. iv. 


orbits in adult human beings. But, if we trace back 
the nasal chambers to their origin in the embryo, we 
find, that, to begin with, they are mere depressions of 
the skin of the fore part of the head, lined by a con- 
tinuation of the general epidermis. These depressions 
become pits, and the pits, by the growth of the adjacent 
parts, gradually acquire the position which they finally 
occupy. The olfactory organ, therefore, is a specially 
modified part of the general integument. 

The human ear would seem to present greater dif- 
ficulties. For the essential part of the sense organ, in 
this case, is the membranous labyrinth, a bag of com- 
plicated form, which lies buried in the depths of the 
floor of the skull, and is surrounded by dense and solid 
bone. Here, however, recourse to the study of devel- 
opment readily unravels the mystery. Shortly after the 
time when the olfactory organ appears, as a depression 
of the skin on the side of the fore part of the head, 
the auditory organ appears as a similar depression on 
the side of its back part. The depression, rapidly deep- 
ening, becomes a small pouch; and then, the commu- 
nication with the exterior becoming shut off, the pouch 
is converted into a closed bag, the epithelial lining of 
which is a part of the general epidermis segregated from 
the rest. The adjacent tissues, changing first into car- 
tilage and then into bone, enclose the auditory sac in a 
strong case, in which it undergoes its further metamor- 
phoses; while the drum, the ear bones, and the exter- 
nal ear, are superadded by no less extraordinary modi- 


fications of the adjacent parts. Still more marvellous 
is the history of the development of the organ of vision. 
In the place of the eye, as in that of the nose and that 
of the ear, the young embryo presents a depression of 
the general integument; Tbnt ? in man and the higher 
animals, this does not give rise to the proper sensory 
organ, but only to part of the accessory structures con- 
cerned in vision. In fact, this depression, deepening 
and becoming converted into a shut sac, produces only 
the cornea, the aqueous humour, and the crystalline lens 
of the perfect eye. 

The retina is added to this by the outgrowth of the 
wall of a portion of the brain into a sort of bag, or sac, 
with a narrow neck, the convex bottom of which is 
turned outwards, or towards the crystalline lens. As 
the development of the eye proceeds, the convex bot- 
tom of the bag becomes pushed in, so that it gradually 
obliterates the cavity of the sac, the previously convex 
wall of which becomes deeply concave. The sac of 
the brain is now like a double nightcap ready for the 
head, but the place which the head would occupy is 
taken by the vitreous humour, while the layer of night- 
cap next it becomes the retina. Tine cells of this layer 
which lie farthest from the vitreous humour, or, in other 
words, bound tlio original cavity of the sac, arc meta- 
morphosed into the rods and cones. Suppose now that 
the sac of the brain could be brought back to its origi- 
nal form ; then the rods and cones would form part of 
the lining of a side pouch of the brain. But one of 


the most wonderful revelations of embryology is tlie 
proof of the fact that the "brain itself is, at its first 
beginning, merely an infolding of the epidermic layer 
of the general integument. Hence it follows that the 
rods and cones of the vertebrate eye are modified epi- 
dermic cells, as much as the crystalline cones of the 
insect or crustacean eye are ; and that the inversion of 
the position of the former in relation to light arises sim- 
ply from the roundabout way in which the vertebrate 
retina is developed. 

Thus all the higher sense organs start from one. 
foundation, and the receptive epithelium of the eye, or 
of the ear, is as much modified epidermis as is that of 
the nose. The structural unity of the sense organs is 
the morphological parallel to their identity of physio- 
logical function, which, as we have seen, is to be im- 
pressed by certain modes of motion; and they axe fine 
or coarse, in proportion to the delicacy or the strength 
of the impulses by which they are to be affected. 

In ultimate analysis, then, it appears that a sensa- 
tion is the equivalent in terms of consciousness for a 
mode of motion of the matter of the sensorium. But, 
if inquiry is pushed a stage farther, and the question 
is asked, "What then do we know about matter and 
motion? there is but one reply possible. All that we 
know about motion is that it is a name for certain 
changes in the relations of our visual, tactile, and mus- 
cular sensations; and all that we know about matter 


is that it is the hypothetical substance of physical phe- 
nomena the assumption of the existence of which is 
as pure a piece of metaphysical speculation as is that 
of the existence of the substance of mind. 

Our sensations, onr pleasures, our pains, and the re- 
lations of these, make np the sum total of the elements 
of positive, unquestionable knowledge. We call a large 
section of these sensations and their relations matter and 
motion; the rest we term mind and thinking; and expe- 
rience shows that there is a certain constant order of suc- 
cession between some of the former and some of the latter. 

This is all that just metaphysical criticism leaves 
of the idols sot up by the spurious metaphysics of 
vulgar common sense. It is consistent either with pure 
Materialism, or with pure Idealism, but it is neither. 
For the Idealist, not content with declaring the truth 
that our knowledge is limited to facts of consciousness, 
affirms the wholly improvable proposition that nothing 
exists beyond these and the substance of mind. And, 
on the other hand, the Materialist, holding by the truth 
that, for anything that appears to the contrary, material 
phenomena are the causes of mental phenomena, assorts 
his unprovable dogma, that material phenomena and the 
substance of matter are the solo primary existences, 

Strike out the propositions about which neither con- 
troversialist does or can know anything, and there is 
nothing left for them to quarrel about. Make a desert 
of the Unknowable, and the divine Astooa of philo- 
sophic peace will commence her blessed reign* 


IN the former half of the eighteenth century, the 
term " evolution" was introduced into biological writ- 
ings, in order to denote the mode in which some of 
the most eminent physiologists of that time conceived 
that the generation of living things toot place ; in op- 
position to the hypothesis advocated, in the preceding 
century, by Harvey in that remarkable work"* which 
would give him a claim to rank among the founders 
of biological science, even had he not been the discov- 
erer of the circulation of the blood. 

One of Harvey's prime objects is to defend and 
establish, on the basis of direct observation, the opinion 
already held by Aristotle; that, in the higher animals 
at any rate, the formation of the new organism by the 
process of generation takes place, not suddenly, by 
simultaneous accretion of rudiments of all, or of the 
most important, of the organs of the adult ; nor by 
sudden metamorphosis of a formative substance into a 
miniature of the whole, which subsequently grows ; but 

* The " Exercitationes de Generatione Anlmalium," wMcli Dr. George 
Ent extracted from Mm and published In 1651. 


fry epigwwsis, or successive differentiation of a rela- 
tively homogeneous rudiment into the parts and struct- 
ures which are characteristic of the adult. 

"Et primd, quidem, quoniam per epigenesin sive partinm super- 
exorientium additamentum pullum fabricari certum est: qusanam 
pars ante alias omnes exstruatur, et quid de ilia ejnsque generandi 
modo observandum veniat, dispiciemus. Batum sane est et in ovo 
manifest^ apparet quod Aristo teles de perfectorum animaliinn gene- 
ratione enuntiat : nimirum, non omnes partes simul fieri, sed ordine 
aliam post aliam ; primumque existere particulam genitalem, cnjus 
yirtute postea (tanquam ex principio quodarn) reliquso omnes partes 
prosiliant. Qualem in plantarum seminibus (fabis, putd, aut glan- 
dibus) gemmam siye apicem protuberantem cernimus, totius future 
arboris principium. Estque Jicec particula wkit films emancipates 
seonumque cottocatus, et principium per se vivens; tmde postea 
membrorum ordo describitur; et quacunque ad alsolvcndum animal 
pertinent, disponuntur* Quoniam enim nullapars se ipsam gene- 
rat; sed postquam generate est^ $e ipsam jam aitf/et; idea eampri- 
mdm oriri necesse est, qua principium augendi contimat (swe enim 
planted, sive animal est, ceque omnibus inest quod mm Jiabeat wge- 
tandi, me nutriendi),^ simTilqvLQ reliquas omnes partes suo quamque 
ordine distinguat et formet ; proindeque in eadom primogenita par- 
ticula anima primario in est, sensus, motusque, et totius vita) auctor 
et principium. ' ' (Exercitatio 51.) 

Harvey proceeds to contrast this view with that of 
the "Medici," or followers of Hippocrates and Galen, 
who, "badly philosophising," imagined that the brain, 
the heart, and the liver were simultaneously first gene- 
rated in the form of vesicles; and, at the same time, 
while expressing his agreement with Aristotle in the 
principle of epigenesis, he maintains that it is the blood 
which is the primal generative part, and not, as Aristotle 
thought, the heart. 

* " De Generatione Animalium," lib. ii. cap. x. 
f " De Generatione," lib. ii. cap. iv. 


In the latter part of the seventeenth century, the 
doctrine of epigenesis, thus advocated by Harvey, was 
controverted, on the ground of direct observation, by 
Malpighi, who affirmed that the body of the chick is 
to be seen in the egg, before the punotum scmguineum 
makes its appearance. But, from this perfectly correct 
observation a conclusion which is by no means war- 
ranted was drawn ; namely, that the chick, as a whole, 
really exists in the egg antecedently to incubation ; and 
that what happens in the course of the latter process 
is no addition of new parts, "alias post alias natas," 
as Harvey puts it, but a simple expansion, or unfold- 
ing, of the organs which already exist, though they 
are too small and inconspicuous to be discovered. The 
weight of Malpighi's observations therefore fell into 
the scale of that doctrine which Harvey terms meta- 
morphosis, in contradistinction to epigenesis. 

The views of Malpighi were warmly welcomed, on 
philosophical grounds, by Leibnitz,* who found in them 
a support to his hypothesis of monads, and by Male- 

* " Cependant, pour revenir aux formes ordinaires on aux araes mate"- 
rielles, cette dur&e qu'il leur faut attribuer a la place de celle qu'on avoit 
attribute aux atomes pourroit faire douter si elles ne vont pas de corps en 
corps ; ce qui seroit la me"tempsychose, a peu pr&s comme quelques philo- 
sophes ont cru la transmission du mouvement et celle des especes. Mais 
cette imagination est bien 61oigne*e de la nature des choses, II n'y a point 
de tel passage ; et c'est ici oft les transformations de Messieurs Swammer- 
dam, Malpighi, et Leeuwenhoek, qui sont des plus excellens observateurs de 
notre terns, sont venues a mon secours, et m^ont fait admettre plus aise- 
ment, quo 1'animal, et toute autre substance organis^e ne commence point 
lorsque nous le croyons, et que sa generation apparente n'est qu'une de"- 
veloppement et une esp^ce d'augmentation. Aussi ai je remarqu6 que Tau- 


branche ; * while, in the middle of the eighteenth cen- 
tury, not only speculative considerations, but a great 
number of new and interesting observations on the phe- 
nomena of generation, led the ingenious Bonnet, and 
Haller, f the first physiologist of the age, to adopt, ad- 
vocate, and extend them. 

Bonnet affirms that, before fecundation, the hen's 
egg contains an excessively minute but complete chick ; 
and that fecundation and incubation simply cause this 
germ to absorb nutritious matters, which are deposited 
in the interstices of the elementary structures of which 
the miniature chick, or germ, is made up. The conse- 
quence of this intussusceptive growth is the " develop- 
ment " or " evolution" of the germ into the visible bird. 
Thus an organised individual (tout organise) " is a com- 
posite body consisting of the original, or elementary, 
parts and of the matters which have been associated 

teur de la ' Recherche de la Ycrite,' M. Regis, M. Hartsoeker, et d'autres 
habiles hommes n'ont pas 6t6 fort eloigne*s de ce sentiment.'* Leibnitz, 
" Systeme nouveau de la Nature," 1695. The doctrine of " Emboltement " 
is contained in the "Considerations sur le principe de vie," 1*705 ; the 
preface to the " Theodicee," 1710 ; and the " Principes de la Nature et de 
la Grace" (6), 1718. 

* " II est vrai que la pens&e la plus raisonnable et la plus conforme a 
1'experienee sur cette question trs difficile de la formation du foetus ; c'est 
que les enfans sont de"ja presque tout forme's avant m&me Faction par la- 
quelle ils sont con9us ; et que leurs me~res ne font que Icur donner 1'accrois- 
semcnt ordinaire dans le temps de la grossesse." " De la Recherche de la 
Verit^," livre ii. chap. vii. p. 334, 7th ed., 1721. 

f The writer is indebted to Dr. Allen Thomson for reference to the evi- 
dence contained in a note to Haller's edition of Boerhaave's " Prselectiones 
Academics," vol. v. pt. ii. p. 497, published in 1744, that Haller originally 


with them by the aid of "nutrition ; " so that, if these 
matters could be extracted from the individual (tout), it 
would, so to speak, become concentrated in a point, and 
would thus be restored to its primitive condition of a 
germ / " just as by extracting from a bone the calcare- 
ous substance which is the source of its hardness, it is 
reduced to its primitive state of gristle or membrane." * 
"Evolution" and "development" are, for Bonnet, 
synonymous terms ; and since by " evolution " he means 
simply the expansion of that which was invisible into 
visibility, he was naturally led to the conclusion, at 
which Leibnitz had arrived by a different line of reason- 
ing, that no such thing as generation, in the proper sense 
of the word, exists in nature. The growth of an organic 
being is simply a process of enlargement, as a particle 
of dry gelatine may be swelled up by the intussusception 
of water; its death is a shrinkage, such as the swelled 
jelly might undergo on desiccation. Nothing really new 
is produced in the living world, but the germs which de- 
velop have existed since the beginning of things ; and 
nothing really dies, but, when what we call death takes 
place, the living thing shrinks back into its germ state. f 

* " Considerations sur lea Corps organises," chap. x. 

t Bonnet had the courage of his opinions, and in the " Palinge*ne"sie 
Philosophique," part vi. chap, iv., he develops a hypothesis which he terms 
" Evolution naturelle ; " and which, making allowance for his peculiar views 
of the nature of generation, bears no small resemblance to what is under- 
stood by " evolution" at the present day: 

*' Si la volonte* divine a cre*e* par un seul Acte I'Universalite* des tres, 
d'ofr venoient ces plantes et ces animaux dont Moyse nous decrit la Produc- 
tion au troisieme et au cinquienie jour du renouvellement de notre monde ? 

" Abuserois-je de la liberte de conjectures si je disois, que les Plantes 


The two parts of Bonnet's hypothesis, namely, the 
'doctrine that all living things proceed from pre-exist- 
ing germs, and that these contain, one inclosed within 
the other, the germs of all future living things, which 
is the hypothesis of " emboitement ; " and the doctrine 
that every germ contains in miniature all the organs of 
the adult, which is the hypothesis of evolution or devel- 
opment, in the primary senses of these words, must be 
carefully distinguished. In fact, while holding firmly by 
the former, Bonnet more or less modified the latter 
in his later writings, and, at length, he admits that a 
"germ" need not be an actual miniature of the organ- 
ism ; but that it may be merely an " original pref orrna- 
tion " capable of producing the latter. * 

But, thus defined, the germ is neither more nor less 
than the "particula genitalis" of Aristotle, or the 
" primordium vegetale " or " ovum " of Harvey ; and 

et les Animaux qui existent aujourd'hui sont parvenus par uue sorte d'evo- 
lution naturelle des Etres organises qui peuplaient ce premier Monde, sorti 
imme'diatement des MAINS du CBEATEUR ? . . . 

" Ne supposons que trois revolutions. La Terre vient de sortir des 
MAINS du CREATEUR. Des causes prepares par sa SAGESSE font d^velop- 
per de toutes parts les Germes. Les Etres organises commencent & jouir 
de Pexistence. Us e"toient probablement alors bien diffe'rens de ce qu'ils 
eont aujourd'hui. Us Petoient autant que ce premier Monde diff<roit de 
celui que nous habitons. Nous manquons de moyens pour juger de ces 
dissemblances, et peut-^tre que le plus habile NaturaKste qui auroit e*t6 
plac^ dans ce premier Monde y auroit enticement me'connu nos Plantes et 
nos Animaux." 

* " Ce mot (germe) ne ddsignera pas seulement un corps organist 
r&duit en petit ; il d4signera encore toute espece dc preformationoriginelle 
dont un Tout organigue peut r$sulter comme de son prindpe imm&diat*" 
" Paling6n6sie Philosophique," part x. chap. ii. 


the " evolution ?J of such a germ would not be distin- 
guishable from " epigenesis." 

Supported by the great authority of Haller, the doc- 
trine of evolution, or development, prevailed through- 
out the whole of the eighteenth century, and Cuvier 
appears to have substantially adopted Bonnet's later 
views, though probably he would not have gone all 
lengths in the direction of " emboitement," In a well- 
known note to Laurillards' " Eloge," prefixed to the last 
edition of the " Ossemens f ossiles," the " radical de 
1'etre " is much the same thing as Aristotle's " partieula 
genitalis " and Harvey's " ovum." * 

Bonnet's eminent contemporary, Buffon, held nearly 
the same views with respect to the nature of the germ, 
and expresses them even more confidently. 

" Ceux qui out era que le coenr toit le premier forme*, se sont 
trompe"s ; ceux qui disent que c'est le sang se trompent aussi : tout 
est forme" en m&me temps. Si 1'on ne consnlte que 1'observation, 
le ponlet se voit dans Pceuf avant qni 1 il ait 6t6 couveV' t 

" J'ai ouvert une grande quantity d'oeufs & differ ens temps avant 
et apr&s Tincnbation, et je me suis oonvaincu par mes yeux que le 
poulet existe en entier dans le milieu de la cicatricule au moment 
qu'il sort du corps de la poule." J 

* " M. Olivier consid4rant que tous les 6tres organises sont d^riv^s de 
parens, et ne voyant dans la nature aucune force capable de produire F or- 
ganisation, croyait & la pr6-existence des germes ; non pas & la pre"-exist- 
ence d'un ^tre tout forme", puisqu'il est bien evident que ce n'est que par 
des deVeloppemens successifs que Fetre acquiert sa forme ; mais, si Pon 
pent s^exprimer ainsi, & la pre*-existence du radical de Fetre, radical qui 
existe avant que la serie des Evolutions ne commence, et qui remonte cer- 
tainement, suivant la belle observation de Bonnet, & plusieurs generations." 
-Laurillard, " ^loge de Cuvier, n note 12. 

f "Histoire Katurelle," torn. ii. ed. ii. 1750, p. 350. 

t Ibid. p. 351. 


The " moule interieur " of Buffon is the aggregate 
of elementary parts which constitute the individual, and 
is thus the equivalent of Bonnet's germ, * as defined in 
the passage cited above. But Buff on further imagined 
that innumerable "molecules organiques" are dispersed 
throughout the world, and that alimentation consists in 
the appropriation by the parts of an organism of those 
molecules which are analogous to them. Growth, there- 
fore ? was, on this hypothesis, a process partly of simple 
evolution, and partly of what has been termed "syn- 
genesis." Buffon's opinion is, in fact,, a sort of combi- 
nation of views, essentially similar to those of Bonnet, 
with others, somewhat similar to those of the a Medici " 
whom Harvey condemns. The " molecules organiques " 
are physical equivalents of Leibnitz's "monads." 

It is a striking example of the difficulty of getting 
people to use their own powers of investigation accu- 
rately, that this form of the doctrine of evolution should 
have held its ground so long ; for it was thoroughly and 
completely exploded, not long after its enunciation, by 
Caspar Friederich "Wolff, who in his " Theoria Genera- 
tionis," published in 1759, placed the opposite theory of 
epigenesis upon the secure foundation of fact, from which 
it has never been displaced. But Wolff had no immedi- 
ate successors. The school of Ouvier was lamentably de- 
ficient in embryologists ; and it was only in the course 
of the first thirty years of the present century, that Pr- 
vest and Dumas in France, and, later on, Dollinger, Pan- 

* See particularly Buffon, L c. p. 41. 


der, Von Bar, Bathke, and Kemak in G-ermany, founded 
modern embryology; while, at the same time, they 
proved the utter incompatibility of the hypothesis of 
evolution, as formulated by Bonnet and Haller, with 
easily demonstrable facts. 

Nevertheless, though the conceptions originally de- 
noted by "evolution" and "development" were shown 
to be utenable, the words retained their application to 
the process by which the embryos of living beings gradu- 
ally make their appearance; and the terms "Develop- 
ment," " Entwickelung," and " Evolutio," are now indis- 
criminately used for the series of genetic changes ex- 
hibited by living beings, by writers who would emphatic- 
ally deny that "Development' 5 or " Entwickelung " or 
a Evolutio," in the sense in which these words were usu- 
ally employed by Bonnet or by Haller, ever occurs. 

Evolution, or development, is, in fact, at present em- 
ployed in biology as a general name for the history of 
the steps by which any living being has acquired the 
morphological and the physiological characters which 
distinguish it. As civil history may be divided into 
biography, which is the history of individuals, and uni- 
versal history, which is the history of the human race, 
so evolution falls naturally into two categories, the evo- 
lution of the individual, and the evolution of the sum of 
living beings. It will be convenient to deal with the 
modern doctrine of evolution under these two heads. 


I. The Evolution of the Individual. 

No exception is, at this time, known to the general 
law, established upon an immense multitude of direct 
observations, that every living thing is evolved from a 
particle of matter in which no trace of the distinctive 
characters of the adult form of that living thing is dis- 
cernible. This particle is termed a germ. Harvey* 

"Omnibus viventibus primordmm insit, ex quo et a quo pro- 
veniaBt. Liceat hoc nobis jprimordium vegetale nominate ; nenipe 
substantial!! quandam corpoream vitam habentem potenti&; vel 
quoddam per se existens, quod aptum sit, in vegetativam formam, 
ab interno principio operante, rautari. Quale nempe primordium, 
ovum est et plantarum semen ; tale etiam viviparorum conceptus, 
et insectorum vermis ab Aristotele dictus: diversa scilicet diver- 
sorum yiventium primordia." 

The definition of a germ as " matter potentially alive, 
and having within itself the tendency to assume a defi- 
nite living form," appears to meet all the requirements of 
modern science. For, notwithstanding it might be just- 
ly questioned whether a germ is not merely potentially, 
but rather actually, alive, though its vital manifestations 
are reduced to a minimum, the term " potential " may 
fairly be used in a sense broad enough to escape the 
objection. And the qualification of "potential 3 ' has the 
advantage of reminding us that the great chacteristic of 
the germ is not so much what it is, but what it may, 
under suitable conditions, become. Harvey shared the 

* "Exercitationes de Generatione." Ex. 62, "Ovum esse primordium 
commune omnibus animalibus." * 


belief of Aristotle whose writings he so often quotes, 
and of whom he speaks as his precursor and model, 
with the generous respect with which one genuine work- 
er should regard another that such germs may arise by 
a process of " equivocal generation " out of not-living 
matter ; and the aphorism so commonly ascribed to him, 
"omne vivum ex ovo" and which is indeed a fair sum- 
mary of his reiterated assertions, though incessantly em- 
ployed against the modern advocates of spontaneous 
generation, can be honestly so used only by those who 
have never read a score of pages of the " Exercitationes." 
Harvey, in fact, believed as implicitly as Aristotle did 
in the equivocal generation of the lower animals. But, 
while the course of modern investigation has only brought 
out into greater prominence the accuracy of Harvey's 
conception of the nature and mode of development of 
germs, it has as distinctly tended to disprove the occur- 
rence of equivocal generation, or abiogenesis, in the pres- 
ent course of nature. In the immense majority of both 
plants and animals, it is certain that the germ is not 
merely a body in which life is dormant or potential, but 
that it is itself simply a detached portion of the sub- 
stance of a pre-existing living body ; and the evidence 
has yet to be adduced which will satisfy any cautious 
reasoner that "oinne vivum ex vivo" is not as well- 
established a law of the existing course of nature as 
"omne vivum ex ovo." 

In all instances which have yet been investigated, 
the substance of this germ has a peculiar chemical com- 


position, consisting of at fewest four elementary bodies, 
viz. carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen, united into 
the ill-defined compound known as protein, and associ- 
ated with much water, and very generally, if not always, 
with sulphur and phosphorus in minute proportions. 
Moreover, up to the present time, protein is known only 
as a product and constituent of living matter. Again, a 
true germ is either devoid of any structure discernible by 
optical means, or, at most, it is a simple nucleated cell.* 

In all cases, the process of evolution consists in a 
succession of changes of the form, structure, and func- 
tions of the germ, by which it passes, step by step, from 
an extreme simplicity, or relative homogeneity, of visi- 
ble structure, to a greater or less degree of complexity 
or heterogeneity; and the course of progressive differ- 
entiation is usually accompanied by growth, which is 
effected by intussusception. This intussusception, how- 
ever, is a very different process from that imagined either 
by Buffon, or by Bonnet. The substance by the addition 
of which the germ is enlarged is, in no case, simply ab- 
sorbed ready-made from the not-living world and packed 
between the elementary constituents of the germ, as 
Bonnet imagined ; still less does it consist of the " mo- 
lecules organiques " of Buffon. The new material is, in 
great measure, not only absorbed but assimilated, so that 
it becomes part and parcel of the molecular structure of 

* In some cases of sexless multiplication the germ is a cell-aggregate- 
if we call germ only that which is already detached from the parent or- 


the living body into which it enters. And, so far from 
the fully developed organism being simply the germ 
plus the nutriment which it has absorbed, it is probable 
that the adult contains neither in form, nor in substance, 
more than an inappreciable fraction of the constituents 
of the germ, and that it is almost, if not wholly, made 
up of assimilated and metamorphosed nutriment. In 
the great majority of cases, at any rate, the full-grown 
organism becomes what it is by the absorption of not- 
living matter, and its conversion into living matter of 
a specific type. As Harvey says (Ex. 45), all parts of 
the body are nourished " ab eodem succo alibili, aliter 
aliterque cambiato," "lit plantss omnes ex eodem com- 
muni nutrimento (sive rore seu terras huniore)." 

In all animals and plants, above the lowest, the germ 
is a nucleated cell, using that term in its broadest sense ; 
and the first step in the process of the evolution of the 
individual is the divisi >n of this cell into two or more 
portions. The process of division is repeated, until the 
organism, from being unicellular, becomes multicellular. 
The single cell becomes a cell-aggregate ; and it is to the 
growth and metamorphosis of the cells of the cell-aggre- 
gate thus produced, that all the organs and tissues of the 
adult owe their origin. 

In certain animals belonging to every one of the 
chief groups into which the Metazoa are divisible, the 
cells of the cell-aggregate which results from the process 
of yelk-division, and which is termed a morula, diverge 
from one another in such a manner as to give rise to a 


central space, around which they dispose themselves as 
a coat or envelope ; and thus the morula becomes a ves- 
icle filled with fluid, the planulu. The wall of the pla- 
nula is next pushed in on one side, or invaginated, 
whereby it is converted into a double-walled sac with an 
opening, the Uastopore, which leads into the cavity lined 
by the inner wall. This cavity is the primitive aliment- 
ary cavity or arohenteron ; the inner, or invaginated, 
layer is the JiypobUst, the outer the epiblast; and the 
embryo, in this stage, is termed a gastrula. In all the 
higher animals, a layer of cells makes its appearance be- 
tween the hypoblast and the epiblast, and is termed the 
mesoblast. In the further course of development, the 
epiblast becomes the ectoderm or epidermic layer of the 
body ; the hypoblast becomes the epithelium of the mid- 
dle portion of the alimentary canal ; and the mesoblast 
gives rise to all the other tissues, except the central ner- 
vous system, which originates from an ingrowth of the 

With more or less modification in detail, the embryo 
has been observed to pass through these successive evo- 
lutional stages in sundry Sponges, Coelenterates, Worms, 
Eehinoderms, Tunicates, Arthropods, Mollusks, and Yer- 
tebrates ; and there are valid reasons for the belief, that 
all animals of higher organisation than the Protozoa 
agree in the general character of the early stages of their 
individual evolution. Each, starting from the condition 
of a simple nucleated cell, becomes a cell-aggregate ; and 
this passes through a condition which represents the 


gastrula stage, before taking on the features distinctive 
of the group to which it belongs. Stated in this form, 
the " gastrsea theory " of Haeckel appears to the present 
writer to be one of the most important and best founded 
of recent generalisations. So far as individual plants 
and animals are concerned, theref ore, evolution is not a 
speculation but a fact ; and it takes place by epigenesis. 

" Animal . . . per epigenesin procreatur, materiam simul attra- 
hit, parat, concoquit, et eadem utitur; formatur simul et augetur 
. . . primum futuri corporis concrementum . . . prout augetur, 
dividitur sensim et distinguitur in partes, non simul omnes, sed alias 
post alias natas, et ordine quasque suo emergentes." * 

In these words, by the divination of genius, Harvey, 
in the seventeenth century, summed up the outcome of 
the work of all those who, with appliances he could not 
dream of, are continuing his labours in the nineteenth 

Nevertheless, though the doctrine of epigenesis, as 
understood by Harvey, has definitively triumphed over 
the doctrine of evolution, as understood by his oppo- 
nents of the eighteenth century, it is not impossible that, 
when the analysis of the process of development is car- 
ried still farther, and the origin of the molecular com* 
ponents of the physically gross, though sensibly minute, 
bodies which we term germs is traced, the theory of de- 
velopment will approach more nearly to metamorphosis 
than to epigenesis. Harvey thought that impregnation 

* Harvey, " Exercitationes de Generatione." Ex. 45, " Qusenam sit 
pulli materia et quomodo fiat In Ovo," 


influenced the female organism as a contagion ; and tliat 
tlie blood, which he conceived to be the first rudiment 
of the germ, arose in the clear fluid of the " colliquamen- 
tum" of the ovum by a process of concrescence, as a sort 
of living precipitate. We now know, on the contrary, 
that the female germ or ovum, in all the higher animals 
and plants, is a body which possesses the structure of a 
nucleated cell ; that impregnation consists in the fusion 
of the substance * of another more or less modified nu- 
cleated cell, the male germ, with the ovum; and that 
the structural components of the body of the embryo 
are all derived, by a process of division, from the coa- 
lesced male and female germs. Hence it is conceivable, 
and indeed probable, that every part of the adult con- 
tains molecules, derived both from the male and from 
the female parent ; and that, regarded as a mass of mo- 
lecules, the entire organism may be compared to a web 
of which the warp is derived from the female and the 
woof from the male. And each of these may constitute 
one individuality, in the same sense as the whole organ- 
ism is one individual, although the matter of the organ- 
ism has been constantly changing. The primitive male 
and female molecules may play the part of Buffon's 
"monies organiques," and mould the assimilated nutri- 
ment, each according to its own type, into innumerable 
new molecules. From this point of view the process, 
which, in its superficial aspect, is epigenesis, appears in 
essence, to be evolution, in the modified sense adopted 

* Not yet actually demonstrated in the case of phsenogamous plants. 


in Bonnet's later writings ; and development is merely 
the expansion of a potential organism or " original pre- 
formation" according to fixed laws. 

II. The Evolution of the Sum of Living Beings. 

The notion that all the kinds of animals and plants 
may have come into existence by the growth and modifi- 
cation of primordial germs is as old as speculative 
thought ; but the modern scientific form of the doctrine 
can be traced historically to the influence of several con- 
verging lines of philosophical speculation and of physical 
observation, none of which go farther back than the 
seventeenth century. These are : 

1. The enunciation by Descartes of the conception 
that the physical universe, whether living or not living, 
is a mechanism, and that, as such, it is explicable on 
physical principles. 

2. The observation of the gradations of structure, 
from extreme simplicity to very great complexity, pre- 
sented by living things, and of the relation of these 
graduated forms to one another. 

3. The observation of the existence of an analogy 
between the series of gradations presented by the species 
which compose any great group of animals or plants, and 
the series of embryonic conditions of the highest mem- 
bers of that group. 

4. The observation that large groups of species of 
widely different habits present the same fundamental 
plan of structure ; and that parts of the same animal or 


plant, the functions of which, are very different, likewise 
exhibit modifications of a common plan. 

5. The observation of the existence of structures, in a 
rudimentary and apparently useless condition, in one 
species of a group, which are fully developed and have 
definite functions in other species of the same group. 

6. The observation of the effects of varying condi- 
tions in modifying living organisms. 

7. The observation of the facts of geographical dis- 

8. The observation of the facts of the geological suc- 
cession of the forms of life. 

1. Notwithstanding the elaborate disguise which fear 
of the powers that were led Descartes to throw over his 
real opinions, it is impossible to read the " Principes de 
la Philosophic " without acquiring the conviction that 
this great philosopher held that the physical world and 
all things in it, whether living or not living, have origin- 
ated by a process of evolution, due to the continuous 
operation of purely physical causes, out of a primitive 
relatively formless matter.* 

The following passage is especially instructive : 

u Et taut s'en faut que je veuille que 1'on croie toutes les clioses 
que j'6orirai, que m6rae je pretends en proposer ici qnelqnes tines 
que je crois aftsolument tee fausses; fl savoir, je ne doute point que 
1 monde n'ait 4t6 cr66 au commencement avec autant de perfection 

* As Buffonhas well said : " I/id&e de ramener Pexplication de tons les 
ph^nomenes a des principes mecaniques est assurement grande et belle, ce 
pas est le plus hardi qu'on pent faire en philosophic, et c'est Descartes qui 


qu'il en a ; en sorte que le soleil, la terre, la lune, et les 6toiles ont 
ete des lors ; et que la terre n'a pas en seulement en soi les semences 
des plantes, mais que les plantes meme en ont convert nne partie ; 
et qu' Adam et Eve n'ont pas 6 te" cr66 s enf ans mais en &ge d'hommes 
parfaits. La religion cnre" tienne vent que nous le crojons ainsi, et 
la raison natnrelle nous persuade enticement cette ve"rite ; car si 
nous considerons la toute puissance de Dieu, nous devons juger que 
tout ce qu'il a fait a eu ds le commencement toute la perfection 
qu'il devoit avoir. Mais neanmoins, comme on conn6itroit beaucoup 
mieux quelle a 6 te* la nature d'Adam et celle des arbres de Paradis 
si on avoit examine" comment les enfants se forment peu & peu dans 
le ventre de leurs m&res et comment les plantes sortent de leurs 
semences, que si on avoit seulement consider^ quels ils ont e* t6 quand 
Dieu les a cr6es : tout de meme, nous ferons nrieux entendre quelle 
est ge" ne*ralement la nature de tontes les choses qui sont au monde si 
nous pouvons imaginer quelques principes qui soient fort intelligibles 
et fort simples, desquels nous puissions voir clairement que les astres 
et la terre et enfin tout ce monde visible auroit pu etre produit ainsi 
que de quelques semences (bien que nous sachions qu'il n'a pas 6t6 
produit en cette facon) que si nous la decrivions seuleraent comme 
il est, ou bien comme nous croyons qu'il a 6t6 cre'e'. Et parceque je 
pense avoir trouv< des principes qui sont tels, je tacherai ici de les 
expliquer. " * 

If we read between the lines of this singular exhibi- 
tion of force of one kind and weakness of another, it is 
clear that Descartes believed that he had divined the 
mode in which the physical universe had been evolved ; 
and the " Traite de 1'homme " and the essay " Sur les 
Passions" afford abundant additional evidence that he 
sought for, and thought he had found, an explanation of 
the phenomena of physical life by deduction from purely 
physical laws. 

Spinoza abounds in the same sense, and is as usual 
perfectly candid 

* " Principes de la Philosophic," Troisi&me partie, 45. 


" STaturse leges et regulee, secundum quas omnia finnt et ex tmis 
formis in alias mutantur, sunt ubique et semper eadem.' 1 * 

Leibnitz's doctrine of continuity necessarily led him 
in the same direction ; and, of the infinite multitude of 
monads with which he peopled the world, each is sup- 
posed to be the focus of an endless process of evolution 
and involution. In the "Protogsea," xxvi., Leibnitz 
distinctly suggests the mutability of species 

" Alii mirantur in saxis passim species videri quas vel in orbe 
cognito, vel saltern in vicinis locis frnstra quseras. Ita ' Oornua 
Ammonis,' quaa ex nautilorum numero nabeantur, passim et forma 
et magnitudine (nam et pedali diametro aliquando reperiuntur) ab 
omnibus illis naturis discrepare dicunt, quas prosbet mare, Sed quis 
absconditos ejus recessus aut subterranoas abysses pervestigavit ? 
quam multa nobis animalia antea ignota oJffert novns orbis? Et 
credibile est per magnas illas conversions etiam animalium species 
plarimum immutatas. 1 ' 

Thus, in the end of the seventeenth century, the seed 
was sown which has, at intervals, brought forth recur- 
rent crops of evolutional hypotheses, based, more or less 
completely, on general reasonings. 

Among the earliest of these speculations is that put 
forward by Benoit de Maillet in his " Telliamed," which, 
though printed in 1735, was not published until twenty- 
three years later. Considering that this book was writ- 
ten before the time of Haller, or Bonnet, or Linnoeus, 
or Hutton, it surely deserves more respectful considera- 
tion that it usually receives. For De Maillot not only 
has a definite conception of the plasticity of living 
things, and of the production of existing species by the 

* "Ethics," Pars tertia, Prarfatio, 


modification of their predecessors ; but he clearly appre- 
hends the cardinal maxim of modern geological science, 
that the explanation of the structure of the globe is to 
be sought in the deductive application to geological phe- 
nomena of the principles established inductively by the 
study of the present course of nature. Somewhat later, 
Maupertuis* suggested a curious hypothesis as to the 
causes of variation, which he thinks may be sufficient to 
account for the origin of all animals from a single pair. 
Eobinet f followed out much the same line of thought as 
De Maillet, but less soberly ; and Bonnet's speculations 
in the " Palingenesie," which appeared in 1769, have 
already been mentioned. Buffon (1753-1778), at first a 
partisan of the absolute immutability of species, subse- 
quently appears to have believed that larger or smaller 
groups of species have been produced by the modifica- 
tion of a primitive stock ; but he contributed nothing to 
the general doctrine of evolution. 

Erasmus Darwin ( u Zoonomia," 1794), though a zeal- 
ous evolutionist, can hardly be said to have made any 
real advance on his predecessors ; and, notwithstanding 
that Goethe (1791-4) had the advantage of a wide 
knowledge of morphological facts, and a true insight 
into their signification, while he threw all the power of 
a great poet into the expression of his conceptions, it 
may be questioned whether he supplied the doctrine of 

** " Systeme de la Nature." " Essai sur la Formation des Corps Orga- 

nise"s," W51, riv. 

f " Considerations Philosophiques sur la gradation naturelle des formes 
de F&tre ; on les essais de la nature qui apprend & faire Phomme," 1768. 


evolution with a firmer scientific basis than it already 
possessed. Moreover, whatever the value of Goethe's 
labours in that field, they were not published "before 
1820, long after evolutionism had taken a new departure 
from the works of Treviranus and Lamarck the first of 
its advocates who were equipped for their task with the 
needful large and accurate knowledge of the phenomena 
of life, as a whole. It is remarkable that each of these 
writers seems to have been led, independently and con- 
temporaneously, to invent the same name of " Biology " 
for the science of the phenomena of life ; and thus, fol- 
lowing Buffon, to have recognised the essential unity of 
these phenomena, and their contradistinction from those 
of inanimate nature. And it is hard to say whether 
Lamarck or Treviranus has the priority in propounding 
the main thesis of the doctrine of evolution ; for though 
the first volume of Treviranus's " Biologie " appeared 
only in 1802, he says, in the preface to his later work, 
the " Erscheinungen und Gesetze des organischen Le- 
bens," dated 1831, that he wrote the first volume of the 
u Biologie " " nearly five-and-thirty years ago," or about 

Now, in 1794, there is evidence that Lamarck held 
doctrines which present a striking contrast to those 
which are to be found in the " Philosophic Zoologique," 
as the following passages show : 

" 685. Quoique mon unique objet dans cet article n'ait 6te* Cjtte 
de traiter de la cause physique de 1'entretien de la vie des toes or- 
ganiques, raalgre 1 cela j'ai os< avancer en debutant, qne Fexistenoe 


de ces tees tonnants n'appartiennent nullement a la nature ; que 
tont ce qu'on pent entendre par le mot nature, ne pouvoit donner la 
vie, c'est-^-dire, que toutes les qualit^s de la mati&re, jointes & toutes 
les clrconstances possibles, et m&me & l'activit< rdpandue dans Puni- 
vers, ne pouvaient point produire un 6tre muni du mouvement or- 
ganique, capable de reproduire son semblable, et sujet & la mort. 

" 686. Tous les individus de cette nature, qui existent, provien- 
nent d'individus semblables qui tous ensemble constituent Pesp&ce 
enti&re. Or, je crois qu'il est aussi impossible & Phomme de con- 
n6itre la cause physique du premier individu de chaque esp&ce, que 
d'assigner aussi physiquement la cause de I'existence de la tnati&re 
ou de Punivers entier. O'est au moins ce que le resultat de mes 
connaissances et de mes reflexions me portent & penser. S'il existe 
beaucoup de vari6t6s produites par 1'efFet des circonstances, ces va- 
ri^t^s ne d<naturent point les esp^ces ; mais on se trompe, sans doute 
souvent, en indiquant comme espdce, ce qui n'est que variete" ; et 
alors je sens que cette erreur peut tirer consequence dans les rai- 
sonnements que Pon fait sur cette matiere." * 

The first three volumes of Treviranus's " Biologie/' 
which contain his general views of evolution, appeared 
between 1802 and 1805. The " Kecherches sur Porgani- 
sation des corps vivants," in which the outlines of La- 
marck's doctrines are given, was published in 1802 ; but 
the full development of his views, in the " Philosophic 
Zoologique," did not take place until 1809. 

The "Biologie" and the " Philosophic Zoologique" 
are both very remarkable productions, and are still 

* " Recherches sur les causes des principaux faits physiques," par J". 
B. Lamarck. Paris. Seconde ann4e dc la Ke'publique. In the preface, 
Lamarck says that the work was written in 1776, and presented to the 
Academy ia 1780 ; but it was not published before 1794, and, at that time, 
it presumably expressed Lamarck's mature views. It would be Interesting 
to know what brought about the change of opinion manifested in the " Re- 
cherches sur 1'organisation des corpa vivants," published only seven years 


worthy of attentive study, but they fell upon evil times. 
The vast authority of Cuvier was employed in support 
of the traditionally respectable hypotheses of special cre- 
ation and of catastrophism ; and the wild speculations 
of the " Disco nrs sur les Evolutions de la Surface du 
Globe " were held to be models of sound scientific think- 
ing, while the really much more sober and philosophical 
hypotheses of the " Hydrogeologie " were scouted. For 
many years it was the fashion to speak of Lamarck with 
ridicule, while Treviranus was altogether ignored. 

Nevertheless, the work had been done. The con- 
ception of evolution was henceforward irrepressible, and 
it incessantly reappears, in one shape or another,* up 
to the year 1858, when Mr. Darwin and Mr. "Wallace 
published their "Theory of Natural Selection." The 
" Origin of Species " appeared in 1859 ; and it is within 
the knowledge of all whose memories go back to that 
time, that, henceforward, the doctrine of evolution has 
assumed a position and acquired an importance which it 
never before possessed. In the " Origin of Species," and 
in his other numerous and important contributions to the 
solution of the problem of biological evolution, Mr. 
Darwin confines himself to the discussion of the causes 
which have brought about the present condition of living 
matter, assuming such matter to have once come into 
existence. On the other hand, Mr. Spencer f and Pro- 

* See the " Historical Sketch " prefixed to the last edition of the " Ori 
gin of Species.'* 

f "First Principles" and "Principles of Biology," 1860-1804. 


f essor Haeckel * have dealt with, the whole problem of 
evolution. The profound and vigorous writings of Mr. 
Spencer embody the spirit of Descartes in the knowledge 
of our own day, and may be regarded as the " Principes 
de la Philosophie" of the nineteenth century; while, 
whatever hesitation may not unfrequently be felt by less 
daring minds, in following Haeckel in many of his 
speculations, his attempt to systematise the doctrine of 
evolution and to exhibit its influence as the central 
thought of modern biology, cannot fail to have a far- 
reaching influence on the progress of science. 

If we seek for the reason of the difference between 
the scientific position of the doctrine of evolution a 
century ago, and that which it occupies now, we shall 
find it in the great accumulation of facts, the several 
classes of which have been enumerated above, under the 
second to the eighth heads. For those which are grouped 
under the second to the seventh of these classes, respect- 
ively, have a clear significance on the hypothesis of ero- 
lution, wliile they are unintelligible if that hypothesis be 
denied. And those of the eighth group are not only 
unintelligible without the assumption of evolution, but 
can be proved never to be discordant with that hypothe- 
sis, while, in some cases, they are exactly such as the 
hypothesis requires. The demonstration of these asser- 
tions would require a volume, but the general nature of 
the evidence on which they rest may be briefly indicated. 

2. The accurate investigation of the lowest forms of 

* " Generelle Morphologic," 1866. 


animal life, commenced by Leeuwenhoek and Swammer- 
dam, and continued by the remarkable labours of Reau- 
mur, Trembley, Bonnet, and a host of other observers, 
in the latter part of the seventeenth and the first half of 
the eighteenth centuries, drew the attention of biologists 
to the gradation in the complexity of organisation which 
is presented by living beings, and culminated in the doc- 
trine of the " echelle des etres," so powerfully and clearly 
stated by Bonnet; and, before him, adumbrated by 
Locke and by Leibnitz. In the then state of knowledge, 
it appeared that all the species of animals and plants 
could be arranged in one series ; in such a manner that, 
by insensible gradations, the mineral passed into the 
plant, the plant into the polype, the polype into the 
worm, and so, through gradually higher forms of life, to 
man, at the summit of the animated world. 

But, as knowledge advanced, this conception ceased 
to be tenable in the crude form in which it was first put 
forward. Taking into account existing animals and 
plants alone, it became obvious that they fell into groups 
which were more or less sharply separated from one 
another ; and, moreover, that even the species of a genus 
can hardly ever be arranged in linear series* Their 
natural resemblances and differences are only to be ex- 
pressed by disposing them as if they were branches 
springing from a common hypothetical centre. 

Lamarck, while affirming the verbal proposition that 
animals form a single series, was forced by his vast 
acquaintance with the details of zoology to limit the 


assertion to such, a series as may be formed out of the ab- 
stractions constituted by the common characters of each 

Cuvier on anatomical, and Yon Baer on embryological 
grounds, made the further step of proving that, even in 
this limited sense, animals cannot be arranged in a single 
series, but that there are several distinct plans of organi- 
sation to be observed among them, no one of which, in 
its highest and most complicated modification, leads to 
any of the others. 

The conclusions enunciated by Cuvier and Von Baer 
have been confirmed, in principle, by all subsequent 
research into the structure of animals and plants. But 
the effect of the adoption of these conclusions has been 
rather to substitute a new metaphor for that of Bonnet 
than to abolish the conception expressed by it. Instead 
of regarding living things as capable of arrangement in 
one series like the steps of a ladder, the results of 
modern investigation compel us to dispose them as if 
they were the twigs and branches of a tree. The ends 
of the twigs represent individuals, the smallest groups of 
twigs species, larger groups genera, and so on, until we 
arrive at the source of all these ramifications of the main 
branch, which is represented by a common plan of struct- 
ure. At the present moment, it is impossible to draw 
up any definition, based on broad anatomical or develop- 

* "II s'agit done de prouver que la s4rie qui constitute Pchelle animale 
reside essentiellement dans la distribution des masses principals qui la 
composent et non dans celle des especes ni me'me toujours dans celle des 
genres." "Phil. Zoologique," chap. v. 


mental characters, by which any one of Cuvier ? s great 
groups shall "be separated from all the rest. On the con- 
trary, the lower members of each tend to converge 
towards the lower members of all the others. The same 
may be said of the vegetable world. The apparently 
clear distinction between flowering and flower-less plants 
has been broken down by the series of gradations 
between the two exhibited by the Lycopodiacece, Rhizo- 
Bj and GymnospermecB* The groups of Fungi^ 
S) and Algce have completely run into one another, 
and, when the lowest forms of each are alone considered^ 
even the animal and vegetable kingdoms cease to have a 
definite frontier. 

If it is permissible to speak of the relations of living 
forms to one another metaphorically, the similitude 
chosen must undoubtedly be that of a common root, 
whence two main trunks, one representing the vegetable 
and one the animal world, spring; and, each dividing 
into a few main branches, these subdivide into multitudes 
of branchlets and these into smaller groups of twigs. 

As Lamarck has well said * 

"II n'y a qne ceux qui se sont longtemps et fortement occupe"s 
de la determination des esp&ces, et qui ont consulte* do riches col- 
lections, qni peuvent savoir jusqu'& quel point les espdces, parted les 
corps vivants se fondent ]es unes dans les autres, et qui ont pu se 
convaincre que, dans les parties ou. nous voyons des esp&ces iso!4s, 
cela n'est ainsi que parcequ'il nous en manque d'autres qui en sont 
plus voisines et que nous n'avons pas encore recuoillies. 

" Je ne veux pas dire pour cela que les animaux qui existent 

* Philosophic Zoologique, premiere partie, chap. iii. 


ferment une serie tres-simple et partoat 6galement nuance* e; mais 
je dis qn'ils forment une se"rie rameuse, irr&gulie'rement gradu&e et 
qui n'a point de discontinuity dans ses parties, on qui, du moins, 
n'en a toujours pas en, s'il est vrai que, par suite de qnelques 
esp&ees perdues, il s'en trouve quelque part. II en resulte qne les 
esp&ces qui terminent chaque ramean de la s&rie g6n6rale tiennent, 
an rooms d'un c6t6, d'autres espdces voisines qui se nuancent avec 
elles. Yoila ce qne l'e"tat bien connn des choses me met main- 
tenant & porte* e de demontrer. Je n'ai "besoin d'aucune hypoth^se 
ni d'aucune supposition pour cela: j'en atteste toute naturalistes 

3. In a remarkable essay * Meckel remarks 

" There is no good physiologist who has not been struck by the 
observation that the original form of all organisms is one and the 
same, and that out of this one form, all, the lowest as well as the 
highest, are developed in such a manner that the latter pass through 
the permanent forms of the former as transitory stages. Aristotle, 
Haller, Harvey, Kielmeyer, Autenrieth, and many others, have 
either made this observation incidentally, or, especially the latter, 
have drawn particular attention to it, and drawn therefrom results 
of permanent importance for physiology." 

Meckel proceeds to exemplify the thesis, that the 
lower forms of animals represent stages in the course of 
the development of the higher, with a large series of 

After comparing the Salamanders and the perenni- 
branchiate TJrodela with the Tadpoles and the Frogs, 
and enunciating the law that the more highly any animal 
is organised the more quickly does it pass through the 
lower stages, Meckel goes on to say 

* " Entwurf einer Darstellung der zwischen dem Embryozustande der 
hoheren TMere und dem permanenten der mederen stattfindenden Paral- 
lele," "Beytrage zur Vergleichenden Anatomic," Bd. ii. 1811. 


"From these lowest Yertebrata to the highest, and to the 
highest forms among these, the comparison between the embryonic 
conditions of the higher animals and the adult states of the lower 
can be more completely and thoroughly instituted than if the 
survey is extended to the Invertebrata, inasmuch as the latter are 
in many respects constructed upon an altogether too dissimilar 
type ; indeed they often differ from one another far more than the 
lowest vertebrate does from the highest mammal; yet the following 
pages will show that the comparison may also be extended to them 
with interest. In fact, there is a period when, as Aristotle long 
ago said, the embryo of the highest animal has the form of a mere 
worm; and, devoid of internal and external organisation, is merely 
an almost structureless lump of polype-substance. Notwithstanding 
the origin of organs, it still for a certain time, by reason of its want 
of an internal bony skeleton, remains worm and, and only 
later enters into the series of the Yertebrata, although traces of the 
vertebral column even in the earliest periods testify its claim to a 
place in that series." Op. cit. pp. 4, 5. 

If MeckePs proposition is so far qualified, that the 
comparison of adult with embryonic forms is restricted 
within the limits of one type of organisation ; and, if it 
is further recollected that the resemblance between the 
permanent lower form and the embryonic stage of a 
higher form is not special but general, it is in entire 
accordance with modern embryology ; although there is 
no branch of biology which has grown so largely, and 
improved its methods so much, since MeckeFs time, as 
this. In its original form, the doctrine of "arrest of de- 
velopment," as advocated by Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire and 
Serres, was no doubt an over-statement of the case. It 
is not true, for example, that a fish is a reptile arrested 
in its development, or that a reptile was ever a fish ; but 
it is true that the reptile embryo, at one stage of its 


development,, is an organism which, if it had an inde- 
pendent existence, must "be classified among fishes ; and 
all the organs of the reptile pass, in the course of their 
development, through conditions which are closely analo.- 
gous to those which are permanent in some fishes. 

4. That branch of biology which is termed Morphol- 
ogy is a commentary upon, and expansion of, the propo- 
sition that widely different animals or plants, and widely 
different parts of animals or plants, are constructed upon 
the same plan. From the rough comparison of the 
skeleton of a bird with that of a man by Belon, in the 
sixteenth century (to go no farther back), down to the 
theory of the limbs and the theory of the skull at the 
present day; or, from the first demonstration of the 
homologies of the parts of a flower by C. F. Wolff, to 
the present elaborate analysis of the floral organs, mor- 
phology exhibits a continual advance towards the demon- 
stration of a fundamental unity among the seeming diver- 
sities of living structures. And this demonstration has 
been completed by the final establishment of the cell 
theory, which involves the admission of a primitive con- 
formity, not only of all the elementary structures in ani- 
mals and plants respectively, but of those in the one of 
these great divisions of living things with those in the 
other. No a priori difficulty can be said to stand in the 
way of evolution, when it can be shown that all animals 
and all plants proceed by modes of development, which 
are similar in principle, from a fundamental protoplas- 
mic material. 



5. The innumerable cases of structures, which are 
rudimentary and apparently useless, in species, the close 
allies of which possess well developed and functionally 
important homologous structures, are readily intelligible 
on the theory of evolution, while it is hard to conceive 
their raison d'etre on any other hypothesis. However, 
a cautious reasoner will probably rather explain such 
cases deductively from the doctrine of evolution than 
endeavour to support the doctrine of evolution by them. 
For it is almost impossible to prove that any structure, 
however rudimentary, is useless that is to say, that it 
plays no part whatever in the economy ; and, if it is in 
the slightest degree useful, there is no reason why, on 
the hypothesis of direct creation, it should not have 
been created. Nevertheless, double-edged as is the 
argument from rudimentary organs, there is probably 
none which has produced a greater effect in promoting 
the general acceptance of the theory of evolution. 

6. The older advocates of evolution sought for the 
causes of the process exclusively in the influence of vary- 
ing conditions, such as climate and station, or hybridi- 
sation, upon living forms. Even Treviranus has got no 
farther than this point. Lamarck introduced the con- 
ception of the action of an animal on itself as a factor in 
producing modification. Starting from the well-known 
fact that the habitual use of a limb tends to develop the 
muscles of the limb, and to produce a greater and 
greater facility in using it, he made the general assump- 
tion that the effort of an animal to exert an organ in a 


given direction tends to develop the organ in that direc- 
tion. But a little consideration showed that, though 
Lamarck had seized what, as far as it goes, is a true 
cause of modification, it is a cause the actual effects of 
which are wholly inadequate to account for any consider- 
able modification in animals, and which can have no in- 
fluence at all in the vegetable world; and probably 
nothing contributed so much to discredit evolution, in 
the early part of this century, as the floods of easy ridi- 
cule which were poured upon this part of Lamarck's 
speculation. The theory of natural selection, or survival 
of the fittest, was suggested by Wells in 1813, and fur- 
ther elaborated by Matthew in 1831. But the pregnant 
suggestions of these writers remained practically unno- 
ticed and forgotten, until the theory was independently 
devised and promulgated by Darwin and Wallace in 
1858, and the effect of its publication was immediate 
and profound. 

Those who were unwilling to accept evolution, with- 
out better grounds than such as are offered by Lamarck, 
or the author of that particularly unsatisfactory book, 
the " Yestiges of the Natural History of the Creation," 
and who therefore preferred to suspend their judgment 
on the question, found, in the principle of selective 
breeding, pursued in all its applications with marvellous 
knowledge and skill by Mr. Darwin, a valid explanation 
of the occurrence of varieties and races ; and they saw 
clearly that, if the explanation would apply to species, it 
would not only solve the problem of their evolution, but 


that it would account for the facts of teleology, as well 
as for those of morphology ; and for the persistence of 
some forms of life unchanged through long epochs of 
time, while others undergo comparatively rapid meta- 

How far " natural selection " suffices for the produc- 
tion of species remains to be seen. Few can doubt that, 
if not the whole cause, it is a very important factor in 
that operation ; and that it must play a great part in the 
sorting out of varieties into those which are transitory 
and those which are permanent. 

But the causes and conditions of variation have yet 
to be thoroughly explored ; and the importance of natu- 
ral selection will not be impaired, even if further in- 
quiries should prove that variability is definite, and is 
determined in certain directions rather than in others, 
by conditions inherent in that which varies. It is quite 
conceivable that every species tends to produce varieties 
of a limited number and kind, and that the effect of 
natural selection is to favour the development of some of 
these, while it opposes the development of others along 
their predetermined lines of modification. 

7. "No truths brought to light by biological investiga- 
tion were better calculated to inspire distrust of the dog- 
mas intruded upon science in the name of theology, than 
those which relate to the distribution of animals and 
plants on the surface of the earth. Very skilful accom- 
modation was needful, if the limitation of sloths to 
South America, and of the ornithorhynchus to Australia, 


was to be reconciled with, the literal interpretation of 
the history of the deluge ; and, with the establishment 
of the existence of distinct provinces of distribution, any 
serious belief in the peopling of the world by migration 
from Mount Ararat came to an end. 

Under these circumstances, only one alternative was 
left for those who denied the occurrence of evolution 
namely, the supposition that the characteristic animals 
and plants of each great province were created, as such, 
within the limits in which we find them. And as the 
hypothesis of "specific centres," thus formulated, was 
heterodox from the theological point of view, and unin- 
telligible under its scientific aspect, it may be passed 
over without further notice, as a phase of transition 
from the creational to the evolutional hypothesis. 

8. In fact, the strongest and most conclusive argu- 
ments in favour of evolution are those which are based 
upon the facts of geographical, taken in conjunction with 
those of geological, distribution. 

Both Mr. Darwin and Mr. "Wallace lay great stress on 
the close relation which obtains between the existing 
fauna of any region and that of the immediately ante- 
cedent geological epoch in the same region ; and rightly, 
for it is in truth inconceivable that there should be no 
genetic connection between the two. It is possible to 
put into words the proposition that all the animals and 
plants of each geological epoch were annihilated, and 
that a new set of very similar forms was created for 
the next epoch ; but it may be doubted if any one who 


ever tried to form a distinct mental image of this process 
of spontaneous generation on the grandest scale,, ever 
really succeeded In realising it. 

Within the last twenty years, the attention of the 
best palaeontologists has been withdrawn from the hod- 
man's work of making "new species" of fossils, to the 
scientific task of completing our knowledge of individual 
species, and tracing out the succession of the forms pre- 
sented by any given type in time. 

Those who desire to inform themselves of the nature 
and extent of the evidence bearing on these questions 
may consult the works of Eiitimeyer, G-audry, Kowalew- 
sky, Marsh, and the writer of the present article. It 
must suffice, in this place, to say that the successive 
forms of the Equine type have been fully worked out ; 
while those of nearly all the other existing types of Un- 
gulate mammals and of the Carniwra have been nearly 
as closely followed through the Tertiary deposits ; the 
gradations between birds and reptiles have been traced ; 
and the modifications undergone by the Crocodilia, from 
the Triassic epoch, to the present day, have been demon- 
strated. On the evidence of palaeontology, the evolu- 
tion of many existing forms of animal life from their 
predecessors is no longer an hypothesis, but an historical 
fact; it is only the nature of the physiological factors 
to which that evolution is due which is still open to 



of you will "be familiar with the aspect of this 
small green-covered book. It is a copy of the first edi- 
tion of the " Origin of Species," and bears the date of its- 
production the 1st of Octoher 1859. Only a few 
months, therefore, are needed to complete the full tale 
of twenty-one years since its birthday. 

Those whose memories carry them back to this time 
will remember that the infant was remarkably lively, 
and that a great number of excellent persons mistook its 
manifestations of a vigorous individuality for mere 
naughtiness; in fact there was a very pretty turmoil 
about its cradle. My recollections of the period are par- 
ticularly vivid ; for, having conceived a tender affection 
for a child of what appeared to me to be such remark- 
able promise, I acted for some time in the capacity of a 
sort of under-nurse, and thus came in for my share of 
the storms which threatened the very life of the young 
creature. For some years it was undoubtedly warm 
work ; but considering how exceedingly unpleasant the 


apparition of the new-comer must have been to those 
who did not fall in love with him at first sight, I think 
it is to the credit of our age that the war was not fiercer, 
and that the more bitter and unscrupulous forms of 
opposition died away as soon as they did. 

I speak of this period as of something past and 
gone, possessing merely an historical, I had almost 
said an antiquarian interest. For, during the second 
decade of the existence of the " Origin of Species," 
opposition, though by no means dead, assumed a differ- 
ent aspect. On the part of all those who had any 
reason to respect themselves, it assumed a thoroughly 
respectful character. By this time, the dullest began to 
perceive that the child was not likely to perish of any 
congenital weakness or infantile disorder, but was grow- 
ing into a stalwart personage, upon whom mere goody 
scoldings and threatenings with the birch-rod were 
quite thrown away. 

In factj those who have watched the progress of sci- 
ence within the last ten years will bear me out to the 
full, when I assert that there is no field of biological 
inquiry in which the influence of the " Origin of Spe- 
cies" is not traceable; the foremost men of science in 
every country are either avowed champions of its lead- 
ing doctrines, or at any rate abstain from opposing 
them ; a host of young and ardent investigators seek 
for and find inspiration and guidance in Mr. Darwin's 
great work; and the general doctrine of evolution, to 
one side of which it gives expression, obtains, in the 


phenomena of biology, a firm base of operations whence 
it may conduct its conquest of the whole realm of 

History warns us, however, that it is the customary 
fate of new truths to begin as heresies and to end as 
superstitions ; and, as matters now stand, it is hardly 
rash to anticipate that, in another twenty years, the 
new generation, educated under the influences of the 
present day, will be in danger of accepting the main 
doctrines of the (c Origin of Species," with as little re- 
flection, and it may be with as little justification, as 
so many of our contemporaries, twenty years ago, re- 
jected them. 

Against any such a consummation let us all devoutly 
pray ; for the scientific spirit is of more value than its 
products, and irrationally held truths may be more 
harmful than reasoned errors. Now the essence of the 
scientific spirit is criticism. It tells us that whenever 
a doctrine claims our assent we should reply, Take it 
if you can compel it. The struggle for existence holds 
as much in the intellectual as in the physical world. 
A theory is a species of thinking, and its right to exist 
is coextensive with its power of resisting extinction 
by its rivals. 

From this point of view, it appears to me that it 
would be but a poor way of celebrating the Coming 
of Age of the "Origin of Species," were I merely to 
dwell npon the facts, undoubted and remarkable as 
they are, of its far-reaching influence and of the great 


following of ardent disciples who are occupied in spread- 
ing and developing its doctrines. Mere insanities and 
inanities have before now swollen to portentous size 
in the course of twenty years. Let us rather ask this 
prodigious change in opinion to justify itself; let us 
inquire whether anything has happened since 1859, 
which will explain, on rational grounds, why so many 
are worshipping that which they burned, and burning 
that which they worshipped. It is only in this way 
that we shall acquire the means of judging whether 
the movement we have witnessed is a mere eddy of 
fashion, or truly one with the irreversible current of 
intellectual progress, and, like it, safe from retrogres- 
sive reaction. 

Every belief is the product of two factors : the first 
is the state of the mind to "which the evidence in favour 
of that belief is presented; and the second is the logi- 
cal cogency of the evidence itself. In both these re- 
spects, the history of biological science during the last 
twenty years appears to me to afford an ample explana- 
tion of the change which has taken place ; and a brief 
consideration of the salient events of that history will 
enable us to understand why, if the " Origin of Spe- 
cies " appeared now, it would meet with a very different 
reception from that which greeted it in. 1859. 

One-and-twenty years ago, in spite of the work com- 
menced by Hutton and continued with rare skill and 
patience by Lyell, the dominant view of the past history 
of the earth was catastrophic. Great and sudden physi- 


cal revolutions, wholesale creations and extinctions of 
living beings, were the ordinary machinery of the geo- 
logical epic brought into fashion by the misapplied 
genius of Ouvier. It was gravely maintained and 
taught that the end of every geological epoch was sig- 
nalised by a cataclysm, by which every living being 
on the globe was swept away, to be replaced by a brand- 
new creation when the world returned to quiescence. 
A scheme of nature which appeared to be modelled on 
the likeness of a succession of rubbers of whist, at the 
end of each -of which the players upset the table and 
called for a new pack, did not seem to shock anybody. 

I may be wrong, but I doubt if, at the present time, 
there is a single responsible representative of these 
opinions left. The progress of scientific geology has 
elevated the fundamental principle of uniformitarian- 
ism, that the explanation of the past is to be sought 
in the study of the present, into the position of an 
axiom ; and the wild speculations of the catastrophists, 
to which we all listened with respect a quarter of a 
century ago, would hardly find a single patient hearer 
at the present day, No physical geologist now dreams 
of seeking, outside the range of known natural causes, 
for the explanation of anything that happened millions 
of years ago, any more than he would be guilty of the 
like absurdity in regard to current events. 

The effect of this change of opinion upon biological 
speculation is obvious. For, if there have been no 
periodical general physical catastrophes, what brought 


about the assumed general extinctions and re-creations 
of life which are the corresponding biological catas- 
trophes? And, if no such interruptions of the ordi- 
nary course of nature have taken place in the organic, 
any more than in the inorganic, world, what alternative 
is there to the admission of evolution? 

The doctrine of evolution in biology is the neces- 
sary result of the logical application of the principles 
of uniformitarianism to the phenomena of life. Dar- 
win is the natural successor of Hutton and Lyell, and 
the "Origin of Species" the logical sequence of the 
"Principles of Geology." 

The fundamental doctrine of the "Origin of Spe- 
cies," as of all forms of the theory of evolution applied 
to biology, is "that the innumerable species, genera, and 
families of organic beings with which the world is peo- 
pled have all descended, each within its own class or 
group, from common parents, and have all been modi- 
fied in the course of descent." * 

And, in view of the facts of geology, it follows that 
all living animals and plants "are the lineal descend- 
ants of those which lived long before the Silurian 
epoch. 3 ' f 

It is an obvious consequence of this theory of descent 
with modification, as it is sometimes called, that all plants 
and animals, however different they may now be, must 3 
at one time or other, have been connected by direct 
or indirect intermediate gradations, and that the ap- 

* " Origin of Species," ed. 1, p. 467. 


pearance of isolation presented by various groups of 
organic beings must be unreal. 

"No part of Mr. Darwin's work ran more directly 
counter to the prepossessions of naturalists twenty years 
ago than this. And such prepossessions were very ex- 
cusable, for there was undoubtedly a great deal to be 
said, at that time, in favour of the fixity of species and 
of the existence of great breaks, which there was no 
obvious or probable means of filling up, between various 
groups of organic beings. 

For various reasons, scientific and unscientific, much 
had been made of the hiatus between man and the rest 
of the higher mammalia, and it is no wonder that issue 
was first joined on this part of the controversy. I have 
no wish to revive past and happily forgotten contro- 
versies; but I must state the simple fact that the dis- 
tinctions in the cerebral and other characters, which 
were so hotly affirmed to separate man from all other 
animals in 1860, have all been demonstrated to be non- 
existent, and that the contrary doctrine is now univer- 
sally accepted and taught. 

But there were other cases in which the wide struct- 
ural gaps asserted to exist between one group of ani- 
mals and another were by no means fictitious ; and, when 
such structural breaks were real, Mr. Darwin could ac- 
count for them only by supposing that the intermediate 
forms which once existed had become extinct. In a re- 
markable passage he says 

" We may thus account even for the distinctness of 


whole classes from each other for instance^ of birds 
from all other vertebrate animals by the belief that 
many animal forms of life have been utterly lost, 
through which the early progenitors of birds were for- 
merly connected with the early progenitors of the other 
vertebrate classes."* 

Adverse criticism made merry over such suggestions 
as these. Of course it was easy to get out of the dif- 
ficulty by supposing extinction; but where was the 
slightest evidence that such intermediate forms between 
birds and reptiles as the hypothesis required ever ex- 
isted? And then probably followed a tirade upon this 
terrible forsaking of the paths of "Baconian induc- 

But the progress of knowledge has justified Mr. Dar- 
win to an extent which could hardly have been antici- 
pated. In 1862, the specimen of Archceopteryx, which, 
until the last two or three years, has remained unique, 
was discovered ; and it is an animal which, in its feathers 
and the greater part of its organisation, is a veritable 
bird, while, in other parts, it is as distinctly reptilian. 

In 1868, 1 had the honour of bringing under your 
notice, in this theatre, the results of investigations made, 
up to that time, into the anatomical characters of cer- 
tain ancient reptiles, which showed the nature of the 
modifications in virtue of which the type of the quad- 
rupedal reptile passed into that of a bipedal bird ; and 
abundant confirmatory evidence of the justice of the 
* " Origin of Species," p. 431. 


conclusions which I then laid before you has since come 
to light. 

In 1875, the discovery of the toothed birds of the 
cretaceous formation in North America by Professor 
Marsh completed the series of transitional forms be- 
tween birds and reptiles, and removed Mr. Darwin's 
proposition that " many animal forms of life have been 
utterly lost, through which the early progenitors of birds 
were formerly connected with the early progenitors of 
the other vertebrate classes," from the region of hy- 
pothesis to that of demonstrable fact. 

In 1859, there appeared to be a very sharp and clear 
hiatus between vertebrated and invertebrated animals, 
not only in their structure, but, what was more impor- 
tant, in their development. I do not think that we even 
yet know the precise links of connection between the 
two ; but the investigations of Kowalewsky and others 
upon the development of Amphwxus and of the Tuni- 
cata prove, beyond, a doubt, that the differences which 
were supposed to constitute a barrier between the two 
are non-existent. There is no longer any difficulty in 
understanding how the vertebrate type may have arisen 
from the invertebrate, though the full proof of the man- 
ner in which the transition was actually effected may 
still be lacking. 

Again, in 1859, there appeared to be a no less sharp 
separation between the two great groups of flowering 
and flowerless plants. It is only subsequently that the 
series of remarkable investigations inaugurated by Hof- 


meister lias brought to light the extraordinary and alto- 
gether unexpected modifications of the reproductive ap- 
paratus in the I/ycopodiacecB, the Rhizocarpece, and the 
Gymnospermece, by which the ferns and the mosses are 
gradually connected with the Phanerogamic division of 
the vegetable world. 

So, again, it is only since 1859 that we have acquired 
that wealth of knowledge of the lowest forms of life 
which demonstrates the futility of any attempt to sep- 
arate the lowest plants from the lowest animals, and 
shows that the two kingdoms of living nature have a 
common borderland which belongs to both or to neither. 

Thus it will be observed that the whole tendency 
of biological investigation, since 1859, has been in the 
direction of removing the difficulties which the apparent 
breaks in the series created at that time ; and the recog- 
nition of gradation is the first step towards the accept- 
ance of evolution. 

As another great factor in bringing about the change 
of opinion which has taken place among naturalists, I 
count the astonishing progress which has been made in 
the study of embryology. Twenty years ago, not only 
were we devoid of any accurate knowledge of the mode 
of development of many groups of animals and plants, 
but the methods of investigation were rude and imper- 
fect. At the present time, there is no important group 
of organic beings the development of which has not been 
carefully studied ; and the modern methods of harden- 
ing and section-making enable the embryologist to de- 


termine the nature of the process, in each case, with a 
degree of minuteness and accuracy which is truly aston- 
ishing to those whose memories carry them hack to the 
beginnings of modern histology. And the results of 
these embryologieal investigations are in complete har- 
mony with the requirements of the doctrine of evolu- 
tion. The first beginnings of all the higher forms of 
animal life are similar, and however diverse their adult 
conditions, they start from a common foundation. More- 
over, the process of development of the animal or the 
plant from its primary egg or germ is a true process of 
evolution a progress from almost formless to more or 
less highly organised matter, in virtue of the properties 
inherent in that matter. 

To those who are familiar with the process of devel- 
opment, all a priori objections to the doctrine of biologi- 
cal evolution appear childish. Any one who has watched 
the gradual formation of a complicated animal from the 
protoplasmic mass, which constitutes the essential ele- 
ment of a frog's or a hen's egg, has had under his eyes 
sufficient evidence that a similar evolution of the whole 
animal world from the like foundation is, at any rate, 

Yet another product of investigation has largely con- 
tributed to the removal of the objections to the doctrine 
of evolution current in 1859. It is the proof afforded 
by successive discoveries that Mr. Darwin did not over- 
estimate the imperfection of the geological record. No 
more striking illustration of this is needed than a com- 


parison of our knowledge of tlie mammalian fauna of 
the Tertiary epoch in 1859 with its present condition. 
M. G-audry's researches on the fossils of Pikermi were 
published in 1868, those of Messrs. Leidy, Marsh, and 
Cope, on the fossils of the Western Territories of Amer- 
ica, have appeared almost wholly since 1870, those of M. 
Filhol on the phosphorites of Quercy in 1878. The gen- 
eral effect of these investigations has been to introduce 
to us a multitude of extinct animals, the existence of 
which was previously hardly suspected ; just as if zoolo- 
gists were to become acquainted with a country, hitherto 
unknown, as rich in novel forms of life as Brazil or 
South Africa once were to Europeans. Indeed, the fos- 
sil fauna of the "Western Territories of America bids fair 
to exceed in interest and importance all other known 
Tertiary deposits put together; and yet, with the ex- 
ception of the case of the American tertiaries, these in- 
vestigations have extended over very limited areas ; and, 
at Pikermi, were confined to an extremely small space* 

Such appear to me to be the chief events in the his- 
tory of the progress of knowledge during the last twenty 
years, which account for the changed feeling with which 
the doctrine of evolution is at present regarded by those 
who have followed the advance of biological science, in 
respect of those problems which bear indirectly upon 
that doctrine. 

But all this remains mere secondary evidence. It 
may remove dissent, but it does not compel assent. Pri- 


mary and direct evidence in favour of evolution can be 
f urnislied only by palaeontology. The geological record, 
so soon as it approaches completeness, must, when prop- 
erly questioned, yield either an affirmative or a negative 
answer : if evolution has taken place, there will its mark 
be left ; if it has not taken place, there will lie its refu- 

"What was the state of matters in 1859 ? Let us hear 
Mr. Darwin, who may be trusted always to state the case 
against himself as strongly as possible. 

" On this doctrine of the extermination of an infini- 
tude of connecting links between the living and extinct 
inhabitants of the world, and at each successive period 
between the extinct and still older species, why is not 
every geological formation charged with such links? 
Why does not every collection of fossil remains afford 
plain evidence of the gradation and mutation of the 
forms of life? "We meet with no such evidence, and 
this is the most obvious and plausible of the many ob- 
jections which may be urged against my theory."* 

Nothing could have been more useful to the oppo- 
sition than this characteristically candid avowal, twisted 
as it immediately was into an admission that the writer's 
views were contradicted by the facts of palaeontology. 
But, in fact, Mr. Darwin made no such admission. What 
he says in effect is, not that palseontological evidence is 
against him, but that it is not distinctly in his favour ; 
and, without attempting to attenuate the fact, he ac- 
* " Origin of Species," ed. 1, p. 463. 


counts for it by the scantiness and the imperfection of 
that evidence. 

What is the state of the case now, when, as we 
have seen, the amount of our knowledge respecting 
the mammalia of the Tertiary epoch is increased fifty- 
fold, and in some directions even approaches complete- 

Simply this, that, if the doctrine of evolution had 
not existed, palaeontologists must have invented it, so 
irresistibly is it forced upon the mind by the study of 
the remains of the Tertiary mammalia which have been 
brought to light since 1859. 

Among the fossils of Pikermi, G-audry found the 
successive stages by which the ancient civets passed into 
the more modern hyaenas ; through the Tertiary deposits 
of Western America, Marsh tracked the successive forms 
by which the ancient stock of the horse has passed into 
its present form ; and innumerable less complete indica- 
tions of the mode of evolution of other groups of the 
higher mammalia have been obtained. In the remark- 
able memoir on the phosphorites of Quercy, to which I 
have referred, M. Filhol describes no fewer than seven- 
teen varieties of the genus OynodictiSj which fill up all 
the interval between the viverine animals and the bear- 
like dog AmpMcyon; nor do I know any solid ground 
of objection to the supposition that, in this Cynodictis- 
AmpMcyon group, we have the stock whence all the 
Yiveridse, Felidee, Hysenidse, Canidse, and perhaps the 
Procyonidse and Ursidae, of the present fauna have been 


evolved. On the contrary, there is a great deal to be 
said in favour. 

In the conrse of summing up his results, M. Filhol 
observes : 

" During the epoch of the phosphorites, great changes 
took place in animal forms, and almost the same types 
as those which now exist became defined from one an- 

" Under the influence of natural conditions of which 
we have no exact knowledge, though traces of them are 
discoverable, species have been modified in a thousand 
ways : races have arisen which, becoming fixed, have 
thus produced a corresponding number of secondary 

In 1859, language of which this is an unintentional 
paraphrase, occurring in the " Origin of Species," was 
scouted as wild speculation; at present, it is a sober 
statement of the conclusions to which an acute and 
critically-minded investigator is led by large and patient 
study of the facts of palaeontology. I venture to repeat 
what I have said before, that, so far as the animal world 
is concerned, evolution is no longer a speculation, but a 
statement of historical fact. It takes its place alongside 
of those accepted truths which must be reckoned with by 
philosophers of all schools. 

Thus when, on the first day of October next, the 
"Origin of Species" comes of age, the promise of its 
youth will be amply fulfilled ; and we shall be prepared 
to congratulate the venerated author of the book, not. 


only that the greatness of Ms achievement and its eu- 
chring influence upon the progress of knowledge have 
won him a place beside our Harvey ; but) still more, that, 
like Harvey, he has lived long enough to outlast detrac- 
tion and opposition, and to see the stone that the builders 
rejected become the head-stone of the corner. 




THE great body of theoretical and practical knowl- 
edge which has been accumulated by the labours of some 
eighty generations, since the dawn of scientific thought 
in Europe, has no collective English name to which an 
objection may not be raised ; and I use the term " medi- 
cine " as that which is least likely to be misunderstood ; 
though, as every one knows, the name is commonly ap- 
plied, in a narrower sense, to one of the chief divisions 
of the totality of medical science. 

Taken in this broad sense, " medicine" not merely 
denotes a kind of knowledge, but it comprehends the 
various applications of that knowledge to the alleviation 
of the sufferings, the repair of the injuries, and the con- 
servation of the health, of living beings. In fact, the 
practical aspect of medicine so far dominates over every 
other, that the " Healing Art " is one of its most widely- 
received synonyms. It is so difficult to think of medi- 
cine otherwise than as something which is necessarily 
connected with curative treatment, that we are apt to 
forget that there must be, and is, such a thing as a pure 


science of medicine a " pathology " which, has no more 
necessary subservience to practical ends than has zoology 
or botany. 

The logical connection between this purely scientific 
doctrine of disease, or pathology, and ordinary biology, 
is easily traced. Living matter is characterised by its 
innate tendency to exhibit a definite series of the mor- 
phological and physiological phenomena which constitute 
organisation and life. Given a certain range of condi- 
tions, and these phenomena remain the same, within 
narrow limits, for each kind of living thing. They fur- 
nish the normal and typical character of the species, and, 
as such, they are the subject-matter of ordinary biology. 

Outside the range of these conditions, the normal 
course of the cycle of vital phenomena is disturbed ; ab- 
normal structure makes its appearance, or the proper 
character and mutual adjustment of the functions cease 
to be preserved. The extent and the importance of 
these deviations from the typical life may vary Indefi- 
nitely. They may have no noticeable influence on the 
general well-being of the economy, or they may favour it. 
On the other hand, they may be of such a nature as to 
impede the activities of the organism, or even to involve 
its destruction. 

In the first case, these perturbations are ranged under 
the wide and somewhat vague category of " variations ; " 
in the second, they are called lesions, states of poisoning, 
or diseases; and, as morbid states, they lie within the 
province of pathology. No sharp line of demarcation 


can be drawn between the two classes of phenomena. 
JSTo one can say where anatomical variations end and 
tumours begin, nor where modification of function, which 
may at first promote health, passes into disease. All 
that can be said is, that whatever change of structure or 
function is hurtful belongs to pathology. Hence it is 
obvious that pathology is a branch of biology ; it is the 
morphology, the physiology, the distribution, the setio- 
logy of abnormal life. 

However obvious this conclusion may be now, it was 
nowise apparent in the infancy of medicine. Eor it is 
a peculiarity of the physical sciences, that they are in- 
dependent in proportion as they are imperfect ; and it 
is only as they advance that the bonds which really 
unite them all become apparent. Astronomy had no 
manifest connection with terrestrial physics before the 
publication of the " Principia ; " that of chemistry with 
physics is of still more modern revelation ; that of phys- 
ics and chemistry with physiology, has been stoutly de- 
nied within the recollection of most of us, and perhaps 
still may be. 

Or, to take a case which affords a closer parallel with 
that of medicine. Agriculture has been cultivated from 
the earliest times, and, from a remote antiquity, men 
have attained considerable practical skill in the cultiva- 
tion of the useful plants, and have empirically estab- 
lished many scientific truths concerning the conditions 
under which they flourish. But, it is within the mem- 
ory of many of us, that chemistry on the one hand, and 



vegetable physiology on tlie other, attained a stage of 
development such that they were able to furnish a sound 
basis for scientific agriculture. Similarly, medicine took 
its rise in the practical needs of mankind. At first, 
studied without reference to any other branch of knowl- 
edge, it long maintained, indeed still to some extent 
maintains, that independence. Historically, its connec- 
tion with the biological sciences has been slowly estab- 
lished, and the full extent and intimacy of that connec- 
tion are only now beginning to be apparent. I trust I 
have not been mistaken in supposing that an attempt to 
give a brief sketch of the steps by which a philosophical 
necessity has become an historical reality, may not be 
devoid of interest, possibly of instruction, to the mem- 
bers of this great Congress, profoundly interested as all 
are in the scientific development of medicine. 

The history of medicine is more complete and fuller 
than that of any other science, except, perhaps, astron- 
omy ; and, if we follow back the long record as far as 
clear evidence lights us, we find ourselves taken to the 
early stages of the civilisation of Greece. The oldest 
hospitals were the temples of JEsculapius; to these 
Asclepeia, always erected on healthy sites, hard by fresh 
springs and surrounded by shady groves, the sick and 
the maimed resorted to seek the aid of the god of health, 
Votive tablets or inscriptions recorded the symptoms, 
no less than the gratitude, of those who were healed ; 
and, from these primitive clinical records, the half- 
priestly, talf-philosophic caste of the Asclepiads com- 


piled the data upon which the earliest generalisations 
of medicine, as an inductive science, were based. 

In this state, pathology, like all the inductive sciences 
at their origin, was merely natural history ; it registered 
the phenomena of disease, classified them, and ventured 
upon a prognosis, wherever the observation of constant 
co-existences and sequences suggested a rational expec- 
tation of the like recurrence under similar circumstances. 

Further than this it hardly went. In fact, in the 
then state of knowledge, and in the condition of philo- 
sophical speculation at that time, neither the causes of 
the morbid state, nor the rationale of treatment, were 
likely to be sought for as we seek for them now. The 
anger of a god was a sufficient reason for the existence 
of a malady, and a dream ample warranty for therapeu- 
tic measures ; that a physical phenomenon must needs 
have a physical cause was not the implied or expressed 
axiom that it is to us moderns. 

The great man whose name is inseparately connected 
with the foundation of medicine, Hippocrates, certainly 
knew very little, indeed practically nothing, of anatomy 
or physiology ; and he would, probably, have been per- 
plexed, even to imagine the possibility of a connection 
between the zoological studies of his contemporary 
Democritus and medicine. Nevertheless, in so far as 
he, and those who worked before and after him, in the 
same spirit, ascertained, as matters of experience, that a 
wound, or a luxation, ,or a fever, presented such and such 
symptoms, and that the return of the patient to health 


was facilitated by suet and such measures, they estab- 
lished laws of nature, and began the construction of the 
science of pathology. All true science begins with em- 
piricism though all true science is such exactly, in so 
far as it strives to pass out of the empirical stage into 
that of the deduction of empirical from more general 
truths. Thus, it is not wonderful, that the early physi- 
cians had little or nothing to do with the development 
of biological science ; and, on the other hand, that the 
early biologists did not much concern themselves with 
medicine. There is nothing to show that the Asclepiads 
took any prominent share in the work of founding anat- 
omy, physiology, zoology, and botany. Bather do these 
seern to have sprung from the early philosophers, who 
were, essentially natural philosophers, animated by the 
characteristically Greek thirst for knowledge as such. 
Pythagoras, Alcmeon, Democritus, Diogenes of Apol- 
lonia, are all credited with anatomical and physiological 
investigations ; and, though Aristotle is said to have be- 
longed to an Asclepiad family, and not improbably owed 
his taste for anatomical and zoological inquiries to the 
teachings of his father, the physician Mcomachus, the 
" Historia Anirnalium," and the treatise " De Partibus 
Animalium," are as free from any allusion to medicine 
as if they had issued from a modern biological laboratory. 
It may be added, that it is not easy to see in what 
way it could have benefited a physician of Alexander's 
time to know all that Aristotle knew on these subjects. 
His human anatomy was too rough to avail much in 


diagnosis ; Ms physiology was too erroneous to supply 
data for pathological reasoning. But when the Alex- 
andrian school, with Erasistratus and Herophilus at their 
head, turned to account the opportunities of studying 
human structure, afforded to them by the Ptolemies, 
the value of the large amount of accurate knowledge 
thus obtained to the surgeon for his operations, and to 
the physician for his diagnosis of internal disorders, 
became obvious, and a connection was established be- 
tween anatomy and medicine, which has ever become 
closer and closer. Since the revival of learning, sur- 
gery, medical diagnosis, and anatomy have gone hand 
in hand. Morgagni called his great work, " De sedibus 
et causis morborum per anatomen indagatis," and not 
only showed the way to search out the localities and the 
causes of disease by anatomy, but himself travelled 
wonderfully far upon the road. Bichat, discriminating 
the grosser constituents of the organs and parts of the 
body, one from another, pointed out the direction which 
modern research must take ; until, at length, histology, 
a science of yesterday, as it seems to many of us, has 
carried the work of Morgagni as far as the microscope 
can take us, and has extended the realm of pathologi- 
cal anatomy to the limits of the invisible world. 

Thanks to the intimate alliance of morphology with 
medicine, the natural history of disease has, at the pres- 
ent day, attained a high degree of perfection. Accurate 
regional anatomy has rendered practicable the explora- 
tion of the most hidden parts of the organism, and the 


determination, during life, of morbid changes in them ; 
anatomical and- histological post-mortem investigations 
liave supplied physicians with a clear basis upon which 
to rest the classification of diseases, and with unerr- 
ing tests of the accuracy or inaccuracy of their diag- 

If men could be satisfied with pure knowledge, the 
extreme precision with which, in these days, a sufferer 
may be told what is happening, and what is likely to 
happen, even in the most recondite parts of his bodily 
frame, should be as satisfactory to the patient as it is to 
the scientific pathologist who gives him the information. 
But I am afraid it is not ; and even the practising phy- 
sician, while nowise underestimating the regulative value 
of accurate diagnosis, must often lament that so much 
of his knowledge rather prevents him from doing wrong 
than helps him to do right. 

A scorner of physic once said that nature and disease 
may be compared to two men fighting, the doctor to a 
blind man with a club, who strikes into the melee, some- 
times hitting the disease, and sometimes hitting nature. 
The matter is not mended if you suppose the blind man's 
hearing to be so acute that he can register every stage 
of the struggle, and pretty clearly predict how it will 
end. He had better not meddle at all, until his eyes 
are opened until he can see the exact position of the 
antagonists, and make sure of the effect of his blows. 
But that which it behoves the physician to see, not, in- 
deed, with his bodily eye, but with clear, intellectual 


vision, is a process, and the cliain of causation involved 
in that process. Disease, as we have seen, is a perturba- 
tion of the normal activities of a living body, and it is, 
and must remain, unintelligible, so long as we are ig- 
norant of the nature of these normal activities. In other 
words, there could be no real science of pathology until 
the science of physiology had reached a degree of per- 
fection unattained, and indeed unattainable, until quite 
recent times. 

So far as medicine is concerned, I am not sure that 
physiology, such as it was down to the time of Harvey, 
might as well not have existed. Nay, it is perhaps no 
exaggeration to say that, within the memory of living 
men, justly renowned practitioners of medicine and sur- 
gery knew less physiology than is now to be learned 
from the most elementary text-book ; and, beyond a few 
broad facts, regarded what they did know as of ex- 
tremely little practical importance. Nor am I disposed 
to blame them for this conclusion ; physiology must be 
useless, or worse than useless, to pathology, so long as 
its fundamental conceptions are erroneous. 

Harvey is often said to be the founder of modern 
physiology ; and there can be no question that the elu- 
cidations of the function of the heart, of the nature of 
the pulse, and of the course of the blood, put forth in 
the ever-memorable little essay, "De motu cordis," di- 
rectly worked a revolution in men's views of the nature 
and of the concatenation of some of the most important 
physiological processes among the higher animals ; while, 


indirectly, their influence was perhaps even more re- 

But, though Harvey made this signal and perenni- 
ally important contribution to the physiology of the 
moderns, his general conception of vital processes was 
essentially identical with that of the ancients; and, in 
the "Exercitationes de genei*atione," and notably in the 
singular chapter " De calido innato," he shows himself 
a true son of Galen and of Aristotle. 

For Harvey, the blood possesses powers superior to 
those of the elements ; it is the seat of a soul which is 
not only vegetative, but also sensitive and motor. The 
blood maintains and fashions all parts of the body, " id- 
que summd cum providentiA et intellectu in finem cer- 
tum agens, quasi ratiocinio quodam uteretur." 

Here is the doctrine of the "pneuma," the product 
of the philosophical mould into which the animism of 
primitive men ran in Greece, in full force. IsTor did its 
strength abate for long after Harvey's time. The same 
ingrained tendency of the human mind to suppose that 
a process is explained when it is ascribed to a power of 
which nothing is known except that it is the hypothetical 
agent of the process, gave rise, in the next century, to 
the animism of Stahl; and, later, to the doctrine of a 
vital principle, that " asylum ignorantiaa " of physiolo- 
gists, which has so easily accounted for everything and 
explained nothing, down to our own times. 

Now the essence of modern, as contrasted with an- 
cient, physiological science appeals to me to lie in its 


antagonism to animistic hypotheses and animistic phrase- 
ology. It offers physical explanations of vital phenom- 
ena, or frankly confesses that it has none to offer. And, 
so far as I know, the first person who gave expression 
to this modern view of physiology, who was bold enongh 
to enunciate the proposition that vital phenomena, like 
all the other phenomena of the physical world, are, in 
ultimate analysis, resolvable into matter and motion, was 
Rene Descartes. 

The fifty-four years of life of this most original and 
powerful thinker are widely overlapped, on both sides, 
by the eighty of Harvey, who survived his younger con- 
temporary by seven years, and takes pleasure in acknowl- 
edging the French philosopher's appreciation of his great 

In fact, Descartes accepted the doctrine of the circu- 
lation as propounded by "Harv^us m&lecin d'Angle- 
terre," and gave a full account of it in Ms first work, 
the famous "Discoms de la Methode/ 5 which was pub- 
lished in 1637, only nine years after the exercitation 
" De xnotu cordis; 53 and, thought differing from Harvey 
on some important points (in which it may be noted, in 
passing, Descartes was wrong and Harvey right), he 
always speaks of him with great respect. And so im- 
portant, does the subject seem to Descartes, that he re- 
turns to it in the "Trait6 des Passions," and in the 
" Traite de PHonnne." 

It is easy to see that Harvey's work must have had 
a peculiar significance for the subtle thinker, to whom 


we owe botli the spiritualistic and the materialistic phi- 
losophies of modern times. It was in the very year of 
its publication, 1628, that Descartes withdrew into that 
life of solitary investigation and meditation of which 
his philosophy was the fruit. And, as the course of his 
speculations led him to establish an absolute distinction 
of nature between the material and the mental worlds, 
he was logically compelled to seek for the explanation 
of the phenomena of the material world within itself; 
and having allotted the realm of thought to the soul, 
to see nothing but extension and motion in the rest of 
nature. Descartes uses " thought " as the equivalent of 
our modern term "consciousness." Thought is the func- 
tion of the soul, and its only function. Our natural 
heat and all the movements of the body, says he, do not 
depend on the soul. Death does not take place from 
any fault of the soul, but only because some of the prin- 
cipal parts of the body become corrupted. The body of 
a living man differs from that of a dead man in the same 
way as a watch or other automaton (that is to say, a ma- 
chine which moves of itself) when it is wound up and 
has, in itself, the physical principle of the movements 
which the mechanism is adapted to perform, differs from 
the same watch, or other machine, when it is broken, 
and the physical principle of its movement no longer 
exists. All the actions which are common to us and 
the lower animals depend only on the conformation of 
our organs, and the course which the animal spirits take 
in the brain, the nerves, a.nd the muscles ; in the same 


way as the moyement of a watch is produced by noth- 
ing but the force of its spring and the figure of its 
wheels and other parts. 

Descartes' " Treatise on Man " is a sketch of human 
physiology, in which a bold attempt is made to explain 
all the phenomena of life, except those of consciousness, 
by physical reasonings. To a mind turned in this direc- 
tion, Harvey's exposition of the heart and vessels as a 
hydraulic mechanism must have been supremely wel- 

Descartes was not a mere philosophical theorist, but 
a hardworking dissector and experimenter, and he held 
the strongest opinion respecting the practical value of 
the new conception which he was introducing. He 
speaks of the importance of preserving health, and of 
the dependence of the mind on the body being so close 
that, perhaps, the only way of making men wiser and 
better than they are, is to be sought in medical science. 
a It is true," says he, " that as medicine is now practised, 
it contains little that is very useful; but without any 
desire to depreciate, I am sure that there is no one, even 
among professional men, who will not declare that all 
we know is very little as compared with that which re- 
mains to be known ; and that we might escape an infin- 
ity of diseases of the mind, no less than of the body, 
and even perhaps from the weakness of old age, if we 
had sufficient knowledge of their causes, and of all the 
remedies with which nature has provided us."* So 

* "DIscours de la M6thode," 6 e partie, Ed. Cousin, p. 193. 


strongly impressed was Descartes with this, that lie re- 
solved to spend the. rest of his life in trying to acquire 
such a knowledge of nature as would lead to the con- 
struction of a better medical doctrine.* The anti-Car- 
tesians found material for cheap ridicule in these aspira- 
tions of the philosopher ; and it is almost needless to say 
that, in the thirteen years which elapsed between the 
publication of the " Discours " and the death of Des- 
cartes, he did not contribute much to their realisation. 
But, for the next century, all progress in physiology 
took place along the lines which Descartes laid down. 

The greatest physiological and pathological work of 
the seventeenth century, Borelli's treatise "De Motu 
Animalium," is, to all intents and purposes, a develop- 
ment of Descartes' fundamental conception; and the 
same may be said of the physiology and pathology of 
Boerhaave, whose authority dominated in the medical 
world of the first half of the eighteenth century. 

With the origin of modern chemistry, and of elec- 
trical science, in the latter half of the eighteenth cen- 
tury, aids in the analysis of the phenomena of life, of 
which Descartes could not have dreamed, were offered 
to the physiologist. And the greater part of the gigan- 
tic progress which has been made in the present century 
is a justification of the prevision of Descartes. For it 
consists, essentially, in a more and more complete reso- 
lution of the grosser organs of the living body into 
physico-chemical mechanisms. 

* "Discours de la M^thode," 6 e partie, Ed. Cousin, pp. 193 and 211. 


" I shall try to explain our wliole bodily machinery 
in such a way, that it will be no more necessary for us 
to suppose that the soul produces such movements as 
are not voluntary, than it is to think that there is in a 
clock a soul which causes it to show the hours*" * These 
words of Descartes might be appropriately taken as a 
motto by the author of any modern treatise on physi- 

But though, as I think, there is no doubt that Des- 
cartes was the first to propound the fundamental concep- 
tion of the living body as a physical mechanism, which 
is the distinctive feature of modern, as contrasted with 
ancient physiology, he was misled by the natural tempta- 
tion to carry out, in all its details, a parallel between the 
machines with which he was familiar, such as clocks and 
pieces of hydraulic apparatus, and the living machine. 
In all such machines there is a central source of power, 
and the parts of the machine are merely passive distrib- 
utors of that power. The Cartesian school conceived of 
the living body as a machine of this kind ; and herein 
they might have learned from Galen, who, whatever ill 
use he may have made of the doctrine of " natural facul- 
ties," .nevertheless had the great merit of perceiving that 
local forces play a great part in physiology. 

The same truth was recognised by Grlisson, but it 

was first prominently brought forward in the Hallerian 

doctrine of the "vis insita" of muscles. If muscle can 

contract without nerve, there is an end of the Cartesian 

* " Be la Formation du Foetus." 


mechanical explanation of its contraction by the influx 
of animal spirits. 

The discoveries of Trernbley tended in the same di- 
rection. In the freshwater Hydra, no trace was to be 
found of that complicated machinery upon which the 
performance of the functions in the higher animals was 
supposed to depend. And yet the hydra moved, fed 
grew, multiplied, and its fragments exhibited all the 
powers of the whole. And, finally, the work of Caspar 
F. "Wolff,* by demonstrating the fact that the growth 
and development of both plants and animals take place 
antecedently to the existence of their grosser organs, and 
are, in fact, the causes and not the consequences of or- 
ganisation (as then understood), sapped the foundations 
of the Cartesian physiology as a complete expression of 
vital phenomena. 

For Wolff, the physical basis of life is a fluid, pos- 
sessed of a " vis essentialis " and a " solidescibilitas," in 
virtue of which it gives rise to organisation ; and, as he 
points out, this conclusion strikes at the root of the whole 
iatro-mechanical system. 

In this country, the great authority of John Hunter 
exerted a similar influence ; though it must be admitted 
that the too sibylline utterances which are the outcome 
of Hunter's struggles to define his conceptions are often 
susceptible of more than one interpretation. Neverthe- 
less, on some points Hunter is clear enough. For exam- 
ple, he is of opinion that " Spirit is only a property of 

* "Theoria Generatlonis," 1769. 


matter" ("Introduction to Natural History," p. 6), he is 
prepared to renounce animism (Z. c. p. 8), and Ms con- 
ception of life is so completely physical that he thinks 
of it as something which can exist in a state of com- 
bination in the food. " The aliment we take in has in 
it, in a fixed state, the real life ; and this does not be- 
come active until it has got into the lungs ; for there it 
is freed from its prison" (" Observations on Physiol- 
ogy," p. 113). He also thinks that "It is more in ac- 
cord with the general principles of the animal machine 
to suppose that none of its effects are produced from any 
mechanical principle whatever ; and that every effect is 
produced from an action in the part ; which action is pro- 
duced by a stimulus upon the part which acts, or upon 
some other part with which this part sympathises so as 
to take up the whole action " (1. c. p. 152). 

And Hunter is as clear as Wolff, with whose work 
he was probably unacquainted, that "whatever life is, 
it most certainly does not depend upon structure or or- 
ganisation " (I. c. p. 114). 

Of course it is impossible that Hunter could have in- 
tended to deny the existence of purely mechanical opera- 
tions in the animal body. But while, with Borelli and 
Boerhaave, he looked upon absorption, nutrition, and se- 
cretion as operations effected by means of the small ves- 
sels, he differed from the mechanical physiologists, who 
regarded these operations as the result of the mechanical 
properties of the small vessels, such as the size, form, 
and disposition of their canals and apertures. Hunter, 


on the contrary, considers them to be the effect of prop- 
erties of these vessels which are not mechanical but vi- 
tal. " The vessels, 53 says he, " have more of the polypus 
in them than any other part of the body," and he talks 
of the "living and sensitive principles of the arteries," 
and even of the " dispositions or feelings of the arteries." 
" When the blood is good and genuine the sensations of 
the arteries, or the dispositions for sensation, are agree- 
able. ... It is then they dispose of the blood to the 
best advantage, increasing the growth of the whole, 
supplying any losses, keeping up a due succession, etc." 
(I c. p. 133). 

If we follow Hunter's conceptions to their logical 
issue, the life of one of the higher animals is essentially 
the sum of the lives of all the vessels, each of which is 
a sort of physiological unit, answering to a polype ; and, 
as health is the result of the normal " action of the ves- 
sels," so is disease an effect of their abnormal action. 
Hunter thus stands in thought, as in time, midway be- 
tween Borelli on the one hand, and Bichat on the other. 

The acute founder of general anatomy, in fact, out- 
does Hunter in his desire to exclude physical reason- 
ings from the realm of life. Except in the interpreta- 
tion of the action of the sense organs, he will not allow 
physics to have anything to do with physiology. 

" To apply the physical sciences to physiology is to 
explain the phenomena of living bodies by the laws of 
inert bodies. Now this is a false principle, hence all its 
consequences are marked with the same stamp. Let us 


leave to chemistry its affinity; to physics, its elasticity 
and its gravity. Let us invoke for physiology only sen- 
sibility and contractility." * 

Of all the unfortunate dicta of men of eminent abil- 
ity this seems one of the most unhappy, when we think 
of what the application of the methods and the data of 
physics and chemistry has done towards bringing physi- 
ology into its present state. It is not too much to say 
that one half of a modern text-book of physiology con- 
sists of applied physics and chemistry; and that it is 
exactly in the exploration of the phenomena of sensi- 
bility and contractility that physics and chemistry have 
exerted the most potent influence. 

Nevertheless, Bichat rendered a solid service to 
physiological progress by insisting upon the fact that 
what we call life, in one of the higher animals, is not 
an indivisible unitary archseus dominating, from its cen- 
tral seat, the parts of the organism, but a compound 
result of the synthesis of the separate lives of those parts. 

"All animals," says he, "are assemblages of differ- 
ent organs, each of which performs its function and 
concurs, after its fashion, in the preservation of the 
whole. They are so many special machines in the 
general machine which constitutes the individual. But 
each of these special machines is itself compounded of 
many tissues of very different natures, which in truth 
constitute the elements of those organs " (L c. Ixxix.) 
u The conception of a proper vitality is applicable only 
* " Anatomic g6n&rale," i. p. liv. 


to these simple tissues, and not to tlie organs them- 
selves " (1. c. Ixxxiv.) 

And Bichat proceeds to make the obvious applica- 
tion of this doctrine of synthetic life, if I may so call 
it, to pathology. Since diseases are only alterations of 
vital properties, and the properties of each tissue are 
distinct from those of the rest, it is evident that the 
diseases of each tissue must be different from those of 
the rest. Therefore, in any organ composed of differ- 
ent tissues, one may be diseased and the other remain 
healthy ; and this is what happens in most cases (Z. c. 

In a spirit of true prophecy, Bichat says, " We have 
arrived at an epoch, in which pathological anatomy 
should start afresh." For, as the analysis of the organs 
had led him to the tissues, as the physiological units 
of the organism ; so, in a succeeding generation, the 
analysis of the tissues led to the cell as the physio- 
logical element of the tissues. The contemporaneous 
study of development brought out the same result; 
and the zoologists and botanists, exploring the simplest 
and the lowest forms of animated beings, confirmed the 
great induction of the cell theory. Thus the appar- 
ently opposed views, which have been battling with 
one another ever since the middle of the last century, 
have proved to be each half the truth. 

The proposition of Descartes that the body of a 
living man is a machine, the actions of which are ex- 
plicable by the known laws of matter and motion, is 


unquestionably largely true. But it is also true, that 
the living body is a synthesis of innumerable physio- 
logical elements, each of which may nearly be described, 
in "Wolff's words, as a fluid possessed of a " vis esssen- 
tialis," and a " solidescibilitas " ; or, in modem phrase, 
as protoplasm susceptible of structural metamorphosis 
and functional metabolism : and that the only machin- 
ery, in the precise sense in which the Cartesian school 
understood mechanism, is, that which co-ordinates and 
regulates these physiological units into an organic 

In fact, the body is a machine of the nature of an 
army, not of that of a watch or of a hydraulic appa- 
ratus. Of this army each cell is a soldier, an organ a 
brigade, the central nervous system headquarters and 
field telegraph, the alimentary and circulatory system 
the commissariat. Losses are made good by recruits 
born in camp, and the life of the individual is a cam- 
paign, conducted successfully for a number of years, 
but with certain defeat in the long run. 

The efficacy of an army, at any given moment, de- 
pends on the health of the individual soldier, and on 
the perfection of the machinery by which he is led 
and brought into action at the proper time ; and, 
therefore, if the analogy holds good, there can be only 
two kinds of diseases, the one dependent on abnormal 
states of the physiological units, the other on perturba- 
tions of their co-ordinating and alimentative machinery. 

Hence, the establishment of the cell theory, in nor- 


mal biology, was swiftly followed by a " cellular pathol- 
ogy," as its logical counterpart. I need not remind 
you how great an instrument of investigation this doc- 
trine has proved in the hands of the man of genius 
to whom its development is due, and who would prob- 
ably be the last to forget that abnormal conditions of 
the co-ordinative and distributive machinery of the body 
are no less important factors of disease. 

Henceforward, as it appears to me, the connection 
of medicine with the biological sciences is clearly de- 
fined. Pure pathology is that branch of biology which 
defines the particular perturbation of cell-life, or of the 
co-ordinating machinery, or of both, on which the 
phenomena of disease depend. 

Those who are conversant with the present state of 
biology will hardly hesitate to admit that the concep- 
tion of the life of one of the higher animals as the sum- 
mation of the lives of a cell aggregate, brought into 
harmonious action by a co-ordinative machinery formed 
by some of these cells, constitutes a permanent acqui- 
sition of physiological science. But the last form of 
the battle between the animistic and the physical views 
of life is seen in the contention whether the physical 
analysis of vital phenomena can be carried beyond this 
point or not. 

There are some to whom living protoplasm is a sub- 
stance, even such as Harvey conceived the blood to be, 
" summ& cum providentiA et intellectu in finem certum 
agens, quasi ratiocinio quodam ; " and who look with 


as little favour as Bieliat did, upon any attempt to 
apply tlie principles and the methods of physics and 
chemistry to the investigation of the vital processes of 
growth, metabolism, and contractility. They stand 
upon the ancient ways ; only, in accordance with that 
progress towards democracy, which a great political 
writer has declared to be the fatal characteristic of 
modern times, they substitute a republic formed by a 
few billion of "animute" for the monarchy of the 
all-pervading "anima." 

Others, on the contrary, supported by a robust faith 
in the universal applicability of the principles laid down 
by Descartes, and seeing that the actions called " vital " 
are, so far as we have any means of knowing, noth- 
ing but changes of place of particles of matter, look 
to molecular physics to achieve the analysis of the liv- 
ing protoplasm itself into a molecular mechanism. If 
there is any truth in the received doctrines of physics, 
that contrast between living and inert matter, on which 
Bichat lays so much stress, does not exist. In nature, 
nothing is at rest, nothing is amorphous; the simplest 
particle of that which men in their blindness are pleased 
to call " brute matter " is a vast aggregate of molecular 
mechanisms performing complicated movements of im- 
mense rapidity, and sensitively adjusting themselves to 
every change in the surrounding world. Living matter 
differs from other matter in degree and not in kind; 
the microcosm repeats the macrocosm; and one chain 
of causation connects the nebulous original of suns 


and planetary systems with the protoplasmic foundation 
of life and organisation. 

From this point of view, pathology is the analogue 
of the theory of perturbations in astronomy; and 
therapeutics resolves itself into the discovery of the 
means by which a system of forces competent to elimi- 
nate any given perturbation may be introduced into the 
economy. And, as pathology bases itself upon normal 
physiology, so therapeutics rests upon pharmacology; 
which is, strictly speaking, a part of the great biological 
topic of the influence of conditions on the living organism, 
and has no scientific foundation apart from physiology. 

It appears to me that there is no more hopeful indica- 
tion of the progress of medicine towards the ideal of 
Descartes than is to be derived from a comparison of the 
state of pharmacology, at the present day, with that 
which existed forty years ago. If we consider the 
knowledge positively acquired, in this short time, of the 
modus operandi of urari, of atropia, of physostigmin, of 
veratria, of casca, of strychnia, of bromide of potassium, 
of phosphorus, there can surely be no ground for doubt- 
ing that, sooner or later, the pharmacologist will supply 
the physician with the means of affecting, in any desired 
sense, the functions of any physiological element of the 
body. It will, in short, become possible to introduce 
into the economy a molecular mechanism which, like a 
very cunningly-contrived torpedo, shall find its way to 
some particular group of living elements, and cause an 
explosion among them, leaving the rest untouched. 


The search for the explanation of diseased states in 
modified cell-life; the discovery of the important part 
played by parasitic organisms in the aetiology of disease ; 
the elucidation of the action of medicaments by the 
methods and the data of experimental physiology; ap- 
pear to me to be the greatest steps which have ever been 
made towards the establishment of medicine on a scien- 
tific basis. I need hardly say they could not have been 
made except for the advance of normal biology. 

There can be no question, then, as to the nature or 
the value of the connection between medicine and the 
biological sciences. There can be no doubt that the 
future of pathology and of therapeutics, and, therefore, 
that of practical medicine, depends upon the extent to 
which those who occupy themselves with these subjects 
are trained in the methods and impregnated with the 
fundamental truths of biology. 

And, in conclusion, I venture to suggest that the col- 
lective sagacity of this Congress could occupy itself with 
no more important question than with this: How is 
medical education to be arranged, so that, without en- 
tangling the student in those details of the systematist 
which are valueless to him, he may be enabled to obtain 
a firm grasp of the great truths respecting animal and 
vegetable life, without which, notwithstanding all the 
progress of scientific medicine, he will still find him- 
self an empiric?